Unemployment has fallen by 8,000 in the West Midlands over the last quarter – but the region remains at the top of the jobless table.

There are now 274,000 people unemployed in the region, a rate of 10.1 per cent, which is an increase of more than three per cent year-on-year.

The West Midlands remains the only region in the country to have an unemployment rate in the double figures, with 9.9 per cent out of work in the North East and 9.2 per cent in London.

Meanwhile, across the UK youth unemployment has reached a record high today as the jobless total nudged 2.5 million, the worst total since the mid-1990s.

The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work was 952,000 in the three months to October, a quarterly rise of 6,000 and the highest figure since records began in 1992.

Total unemployment increased by 21,000 to 2.49 million, the highest level since early 1995, although the quarterly rise was the smallest for 18 months.

But there was some good pre-Christmas news for the Government in today’s figures, which showed the first fall in the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance across the UK since February last year.

Employment Minister Jim Knight said: “I am pleased to announce that a further 2,800 jobs will be created for unemployed young people - including youth workers, events managers, IT repairers, medical laboratory assistants and energy specialists. This brings the total number of Future Jobs Fund jobs created so far to 98,000.

“Government is working with the public, private and voluntary sectors to create these job opportunities as part of our Backing Young Britain campaign - helping young people get a foot on the career ladder and ensuring no one is written off.”

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “It will be a bleak Christmas in the households of the unemployed and of those who have lost their jobs in this bankers’ recession.

“It could have been a lot worse if there had not been a Labour Government in office to sustain the level of economic activity by public spending.

“The electorate will soon enough be faced with the choice of whether to reduce the deficit by going for growth and getting the unemployed back to work and paying taxes, or reducing it by slashing public spending and adding to unemployment.”