UNEMPLOYMENT is expected to surge past two million today for the first time since Labour came to power in 1997 amid evidence that the UK jobless total is increasing twice as fast as the average across Europe.
A wave of job losses in recent weeks, including 2,300 at the Royal Bank of Scotland yesterday, has led experts to believe the two million figure will be breached today, with analysts now predicting that unemployment will reach three million within the next year.
The number of jobless climbed to 1.92 million in the three months to the end of November and is expected to rise more steeply in the first half of this year following the recent spate of redundancies, including 27,000 at Woolworths.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet business leaders today, shortly before the new unemployment figures are announced, to discuss ways of giving more help to people losing their jobs.
A new TUC analysis today showed that while UK unemployment was lower than the European average it was now increasing twice as fast as the average across Europe.
The UK has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe at 6.1%, compared to a European average of 7.7%, but between December 2007 and October 2008, the UK had the third sharpest increase in unemployment, behind Spain and Ireland, said the union organisation.
Over the same period, unemployment in France went up by just 0.1% and fell 0.8% in Germany.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The UK began the global recession with a relatively strong jobs position, but our advantage is beginning to disappear as redundancies mount.”