The total number of people in employment fell by 69,000 on the quarter to reach 29.09 million. The number of people working full-time fell by 37,000 on the quarter to reach 21.16 million and the number of people working part-time fell by 32,000 to reach 7.93 million.
A sign of the times is the increase, within the part-time fiigures, of 26,000 in those working part-time "because they could not find a full-time job". The total of people working part-time for this reason, 1.16 million out of 7.93 million, is the highest since records began in 1992.
The total number of unemployed people increased by 49,000 over the quarter to reach 2.5 million. Male unemployment increased by 43,000 on the quarter to reach 1.48 million and female unemployment increased by 6,000 on the quarter to reach 1.02 million.
The number of those classified as "economically inactive" because they had taken early retirement increased by the greatest margin since 1993, standing at 1.56 million, an increase of 39,000.The ONS said that there were 157,000 redundancies in the September–November quarter; an increase of 14,000 on June-August.
Despite greater unemployment, total Jobseeker Allowance claims decreased by 4,100 to 1.46 million.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said that figures demonstrated the scale of the challenge to the Government.
"We inherited the largest budget deficit in peacetime history and high levels of worklessness, which we are determined to bring down by rebalancing the economy and supporting private sector jobs growth – we are already seeing some improvement in the number of vacancies in the economy," Grayling said.
"More personalised support for jobseekers will be on offer through Jobcentre Plus and for the long-term unemployed, who need extra help, we are introducing our Work Programme in the summer, which will offer support tailored to individuals’ needs so that they can get into jobs and stay there."
Ian Brinkley, associate director of The Work Foundation said: "The labour market recovery has come to an abrupt halt as accelerating job losses in the public sector and lack of overall growth in jobs in the private sector start to bite. Women’s employment has been especially badly hit.
"The consequent rise in unemployment would have been worse but for the fact that many women have become "economically inactive" and stopped looking for work."
Sarah Thwaites, director of skills development at the Financial Services Skills Council, said: "The competitiveness of the British economy is dependent upon harnessing the talents of a rich and diverse talent pool across the UK.
"The onus is on businesses and education training providers to be more creative and flexible with jobseekers."
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation said that its own data suggested that many employers were planning on "growing" their permanent staffs this year but were starting on a cautious note.
Roger Tweedy, the confederation’s director of research, said: "The first three months of this year could see a few jitters, which is why the majority of employers are planning to keep their permanent workforce static.
"However, the feedback from recruitment professionals confirms that fluidity is returning to the jobs market. The fact that 20% of employers are planning to increase staffing levels over the coming year is an encouraging sign, but real concerns remain with regards to the ability of the private sector to absorb expected cuts in the public sector."
Samantha O'Byrne, head of resourcing at accountants Grant Thornton, said: "Today's ONS figures will prove a dampener on the Chancellor's hopes of economic recovery.
"These figures will no doubt knock the confidence of those in the job-hunting market further, and adds to the urgency of addressing the unemployment issue, particularly among the 18–24s."
Trades Union Congress general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "With more than a fifth of young people out of work, we face a real danger of losing another generation of young people to unemployment and wasted ambition."