UNEMPLOYMENT has reached a 17-year high after more than 100,000 people joined the ranks of those looking for a job, grim new figures showed today.

Youth unemployment reached a record high of 991,000, while the numbers claiming jobseekers allowance increased for the seventh month in a row, to 1.6 million.

Other figures showed a 178,000 slump in employment in the quarter to August - the biggest fall in more than two years - and the largest-ever cut in the number of part-time workers, down by 175,000.

There was a record reduction of 74,000 in the number of over-65s in employment, according to today's data from the Office for National Statistics.

Unemployment increased by 114,000 to 2.57 million, the worst figure since the autumn of 1994, giving a jobless rate of 8.1 per cent, the highest since 1996.

The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 74,000 over the latest quarter to 991,000, a rate of 21.3 per cent, the highest total since comparable records began in 1992.