One in four of the UK's working population is currently out of work.
The latest Labour Market figures, released yesterday by the Office of National Statistics (OFS), showed that 1.65 million people are unemployed, with a further 7.9 million classed as "economically inactive".
These shocking statistics eclipse the fact that the OFS figures also showed that employment levels have risen by 93,000 over the last three months to 29.07 million, and unemployment has dropped by 45,000 at the same time.
Caroline Flint, minister of state for employment and welfare reform, welcomed the figures: "Employment is at near record levels and unemployment is down again. But we are determined to do more. That's why our Green Paper sets out our plans for helping those who have yet to take up opportunities in the labour market. This is central to our strategy for achieving 80 per cent employment in this generation and eradicating child poverty."
Tom Hadley, director of external relations at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: "The figures confirm that there is a massive opportunity for getting more people into work which will be of benefit not just to those individuals but also to employers and taxpayers. The recruitment industry can have a key role to play within this context."
He added: "Research shows that temporary work provides a vital first step into the labour market and it is important to address any obstacles which might prevent this from happening. Flexible forms of working such as temporary work will play a key role in helping the government to achieve its ambitious target of 80 per cent full employment in the UK."
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have voiced their concerns over the figures. Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond, said: "For all Gordon Brown's boasts of economic success, there is still a huge amount of talent and potential in Britain going to waste. When you read the small print, the true figure for 'hidden unemployment' in the UK is about 4 million and there are 176,000 more young people not in work, education or training than in 1997."