Unemployment has soared to a 12-year high of more than 2.2 million after a record number of people lost their jobs in recent months, gloomy new figures showed.
The jobless total increased by 232,000 in the three months to April to reach 2.26 million, the worst figure since the end of 1996.
The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance increased by 39,300 in May to 1.54 million, the highest total since the summer of 1997.
The so-called claimant count has now increased for 15 months in a row.
Other figures from the Office for National Statistics showed youth unemployment has reached its worst level since 1994 after a 74,000 increase in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds out of work to 695,000.
Long term unemployment, counting those out of work for more than a year, increased by 54,000 in the latest quarter to a 10-year high of 515,000.
Meanwhile, the number of people in work fell by 271,000 over the three months to 29.11 million, the biggest quarterly slump since comparable records began in 1971.
Public sector employment increased by 15,000 to more than six million - the highest since comparable records began in 1999 - although most of the increase was because of banking working switching from the private sector under the Government's rescue.
More than 300,000 people were made redundant in the three months to April, an increase of 36,000 on the previous quarter and the highest total since records began in 1995.
Average earnings increased by 0.8% in the year to April, an increase of 1.1% on the last month's record low. Excluding bonuses, wages rose by 2.7%, down by 0.3%.