Unemployment reaches new high of 2.68m but figures show signs of slowing

Unemployment rose to a new high in the three months leading up to November 2011 latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show, reaching 2.685 million, the highest level seen since January 1996.

The number of unemployed jumped by 118,000 on previous figures with with 1.6 million now claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, although the steady rise did show signs of slowing with new figures below some predicted levels.

The figures were softened slightly by evidence that the number of people in work also climbed slightly in the same three months by 18,000 to 22.119 million.

The continuing rise in unemployment may be partly responsible for the increase in those becoming self-employed, with numbers reaching 4.14million, the highest level since records began in 1992.

John Philpott the Chief Economic Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), called the rise in self-employment "good news" but added:

"The latest jobs data paint a mixed picture, with a smaller rise in unemployment than in the quarter to October (up 118,000), a slight increase in the number of people in work (up 18,000), little change in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and a small but nonetheless welcome fall in long-term unemployment (down 10,000 to 857,000). But the picture overall remains one of increasing fragility and the jobs situation is set to get much worse in 2012."

Employment minister Chris Grayling said in a statement:

"The latest figures reflect the current challenging economic climate but also show more women entering the workforce and more students looking to supplement their income through work.

"Despite the exceptionally difficult economic circumstances, finding work for the unemployed will remain top of the Government's agenda."

The charity Credit Action reported that in the 12 months ending October 2011 an average of 88 people a day became unemployed.

Rising unemployment could point to a difficult financial year ahead for individuals and businesses alike with many more in danger of falling into unmanageable debt as a result of unforeseen circumstances.