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Worldwide Recession: UK's Unemployment Numbers Hit 17-Year High

"Any increase in unemployment is bad news and a tragedy for those involved..."

Britain's unemployment hit its highest level in 17 years Wednesday.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 2.64 million people were unemployed in Britain at the end of October—that's the highest level since 1994 and 128,000 more than in the previous quarter.

Unfortunately for the UK, more than one record was shattered when these unemployment numbers came out:

  • Unemployment among 16 to 24 year olds increased by 54,000 to 1.03 million--the highest level since records of youth employment started to be kept in 1992.
  • The number of women unemployed swelled by 45,000 to 1.1 million, the highest since 1988.
  • Britain's unemployment rate is now 8.3 percent, up 0.4 percent on the quarter and at its highest level since 1996.

The British government has been heavily criticized for cutting programs that help young people break into the job market, and opposition leader Ed Miliband has said in the past that the country faces having a "lost generation" of people who find it “impossible to get work.”

Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers the government was trying to reduce joblessness.

"Any increase in unemployment is bad news and a tragedy for those involved," he told lawmakers. "We will do all we can to help people back in to work."

British Prime Minister David Cameron

The statistics office also revealed that public sector employment had fallen by 67,000 to just below 6 million—the first time the level has been that low since 2003.

Cutting costs in the public sector has been a key part of the British government's strategy to reduce the country's debt. It has clashed with public sector unions over its austerity measures, with unions saying the cuts are unfair and hit poorly paid workers the hardest.

Dave Prentis, leader of the public sector union Unison, said the latest unemployment figures showed the government strategy is failing.

"The government continues to ignore the human cost and push ahead with its hard and fast cuts, clinging to the hope that a struggling private sector can pick up the pieces," he said. "These figures deliver a cold hard dose of reality. It is shameful to see that yet again women, who make up the majority of low-paid public sector workers, are the hardest hit by job losses."

The government had hoped that the private sector would create jobs to compensate for those lost in the public sector but the ongoing economic crisis has meant that a number of companies are struggling to stay afloat.

The Associated Press contribute to this story.

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