Ten applicants for every job as unemployment set to smash through 2million barrier

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown claims there are 500,000 unfilled vacancies in Britain

Soaring unemployment has left an average of ten people chasing every vacancy, figures revealed yesterday.

Ministers were on the defensive last night over claims that unemployment was climbing sharply in areas where Jobcentres were closing and will exceed two million this week.

The Government is diverting hundreds of officials from other posts to serve as welfare advisers.

Nearly 1,000 civil servants working on child maintenance and disability claims have been drafted in to reinforce job centres.

A survey by the TUC found that in some parts of the country, the number of jobseekers far exceeds the number of vacancies.

Despite claims by Gordon Brown that there are up to 500,000 unfilled vacancies, the study found extensive job shortages.

The TUC says 60 workers are available for each vacancy in the South East.

The Isle of Wight is the worst hit, with 3,152 registered jobless in an area where there are just 53 registered vacancies.

General secretary Brendan Barber said: 'These shocking figures blow out of the water the Government's claim that there are plenty of jobs available for people who are prepared to look.'

The Conservatives have released figures showing that in 2008, the number of benefit claimants more than doubled in 38 constituencies where job centres had closed since 2002.

The Tory study identified the South West as hardest hit, with 12 constituencies where unemployment has more than doubled.

In the Mid-Dorset and North Poole seat, for example, a Jobcentre Plus office was closed last year but the number of claimants has risen by 163.4 per cent.

The South East saw 11 constituencies affected, while the remainder were spread across England.

In some areas the number of claimants at jobcentres has risen by more than 100 per cent

In some areas the number of claimants at jobcentres has risen by more than 100 per cent

The Office for National Statistics is expected to announce on Wednesday that there are now two million people unemployed.

Between October and December the jobless figure rose by 146,000 to 1.97 million - the highest level since 1997.

The British Chambers of Commerce has warned it could reach 3.2million in the second half of 2010.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell stopped a programme of Jobcentre closures in November, but only after 54 offices had shut.

Tory work and pensions spokesman Theresa May said: 'Instead of providing extra support when unemployment began to rise, Labour continued its programme of job centre closures.

'Now unemployment is rising and there simply aren't the resources to cope.'

Mr Purnell said: 'We are spending an extra £2billion to help people get back into work quickly.' But he admitted: 'It is harder for people to find work at the moment.'

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