LONDON (AP) -- The jobless rate in Britain rose by 0.2 percent to 5.5 percent in the three months to July as the number of unemployed people jumped by 81,000, the government said Wednesday,
The jobless total grew to 1.72 million over the period, according to the Office for National Statistics. It is the highest jobless figure since early 1999 -- yet more evidence of the economic downturn.
The number of people receiving unemployment benefits increased by 32,500 to 904,900 last month, the biggest monthly rise since December 1992.
For the first time in more than a year, the number of people in employment also fell. It was down by 16,000 to 29.54 million in the three months to July.
The figures were released as a major labor federation predicted that the number of long-term unemployed -- those out of work for a year or more -- could rise to 700,000 from the current 400,000 by the end of 2009.
The Trades Union Congress said total unemployment could hit 2 million by next year.