11/16/2011 04:56 EST | Updated 01/15/2012 05:12 EST

UK unemployment rises to 8.3 per cent, long-term jobless total grows

LONDON - Unemployment in the United Kingdom has risen to 8.3 per cent from 8.1 per cent a month ago, an increase the government blamed on the debt crisis afflicting the eurozone.

The rate published Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics was the highest since January 1996.

"These figures show just how much our economy is being affected by the crisis in the eurozone," said Employment Minister Chris Grayling. "Our European partners must take urgent action to stabilize the position."

The agency says the number of unemployed people increased by 129,000 in the July-September quarter compared to the previous three months. That was the largest quarterly increase in two years.

Unemployment has risen as Britain's economy has grown slowly over the last year. The number of people out of work for more than two years rose to 422,000, an increase of 13,000 from the previous three months.

The unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 24 now stands at a record 21.9 per cent.

"There's little to suggest that the economy will be strong enough to stop unemployment rising further," said Samuel Tombs, U.K. economist at Capital Economics. "

Job vacancies have been on a flat to downward trend in recent months, while activity surveys point to further falls in private sector employment ahead, Tombs said.