By Max Clarke

"Although these figures are disappointing, they were not as bad as some had feared. Once again, unemployment is up, employment is down, and the level of inactivity has recorded a large increase. It is particularly worrying that the number of people who are working part-time because they could not find a full-time job, and the number of young unemployed, both rose to the highest level since records began," said David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, commenting on the labour market statistics published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“The figures," continued Mr. Kern "confirm that the economy is facing serious challenges over the months ahead, and we believe that UK unemployment will rise by a further 100,000 over the next year to around 2.6m. With private sector employment likely to decline, it is critical that every effort is made to enable businesses to create jobs.

“The relatively low earning figures support our assessment that the squeeze on incomes will eventually dampen inflationary pressures. A premature rise in interest rates in these circumstances would risk damaging the economy, and the MPC should wait until the recovery is more secure before considering an increase. On its part, the Government should ensure that the labour market remains flexible, and should avoid imposing onerous regulations on business.

“Research published earlier this week by the BCC shows that new employment laws would heap staggering additional costs of £23bn on UK firms over the next four years. Employers cannot be expected to help get these people into work if they are constantly being hampered by such burdens.”