Recently published figures by the Office for National Statistics show that for the three months to January 2011, unemployment has risen by 27,000 to 2.5 million.

The number of people in employment has also risen, by 32,000, but it is unclear whether this has been driven by the growth of full-time jobs in the private sector or by the increase in those over 65 continuing to stay in work.

There was an encouraging fall in the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance between January and February 2011, to reach 1.45 million, while the total number claiming out-of-work benefits has fallen by around a quarter of a million over the past year.

There are sharply contrasting figures at either end of the age spectrum. The number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds increased by 30,000 on the quarter to reach 974,000, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992, while the number of people in employment aged 65 and over increased by 56,000 on the quarter to reach 900,000, again the highest figure since records began.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said: “There is good news and bad news in these figures. There has been a welcome drop in the number of people on benefits and the increase in full-time private sector jobs is a step in the right direction.

“But the rise in overall unemployment is a real concern and underlines the need to press ahead with policies which will further stimulate growth in the private sector. For those on benefits who are now looking to make the transition into the workplace, our new Work Programme will provide tailored support to get them into jobs.”

The Government’s new Work Programme is planned to be in place by the summer and will offer personalised, tailored support to get people back into jobs.

Also commenting on the figures  Tony Roy, EMEA President for CareerBuilder:

“Employers are guarded, but they are hiring.  We are seeing companies hire in areas like healthcare, information technology, engineering, sales and customer service.  There’s a continued emphasis on positions that fuel top-line growth and drive innovation to create new revenue streams.

Competition remains tough.  Nearly one—third of employers we surveyed reported that, on average, they spend one minute or less reviewing a CV.  You want to stack the deck in your favor and grab their attention quickly.”