Unemployment has crept up in the West Midlands in the past quarter – but latest data shows there are 53,000 more people in work in the region than three months ago.

The number of people out of work in the region rose by 4,000, to 241,000, in the three months to January – representing an unemployment rate of 8.7 per cent.

However, that figure is drawfed by the rise in employment, which has increased by 106,000 in the region in the last year, with half of that coming in the quarter to January.

That has meant the total number of people deemed "economically inactive" in the region has fell by 49,000 across the quarter, to 1.6 million.

This comes after a nationwide rise in unemployment for the first time in a year delivered a pre-Budget blow to the Government.

The UK jobless total jumped by 7,000 to 2.52 million, ending a run of reductions, with all the increase caused by more 18 to 24-year-olds becoming unemployed.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "It’s a credit to businesses that the private sector is employing one and a quarter million more people than when this Government took office, helping us compete in the global race.

"Today’s figures show that, against a difficult economic backdrop, we’re helping people to move off benefits and into work.

"There are still tough challenges ahead which is why we’re working hard to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspiration of finding a job."

The total is still 152,000 lower than a year ago, while the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell in February by 1,500 to 1.54 million, the fourth consecutive monthly reduction.

There were 993,000 jobless 16 to 24-year-olds in the latest quarter to January, up by 48,000 from the three months to October, but the rise among 18 to 24-year-olds was 53,000.

The number of unemployed women increased by 5,000, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed.

Other figures revealed that public sector employment fell for the 13th consecutive quarter, by 20,000 to 5.7 million, the lowest for over a decade.

Local government employment fell by 32,000 and civil service jobs by 4,000, but the figure increased by 11,000 in central government.

Employment in private companies increased by 151,000 to 24 million.

The number of people out of work for between six and 12 months increased by 5,000 to 447,000, but fell by 16,000 for those unemployed for over a year to 887,000.

There were 29.7 million people in work, up by 590,000 on a year ago.

There were 8.9 million people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a relative or who had given up looking for a job, a fall of 118,000.

Total pay rose by 1.2 per cent in the year to January, down by 0.1 per cent on the previous month and less than half the rate of inflation.

The unemployment rate remained at 7.8 per cent, compared with 8.3 per cent a year ago.