The number of people seeking work in the three months through June rose 220,000 to 2.44 million, the most since 1995, the Office for National Statistics said in London. A separate measure showing claims for jobless benefit climbed by 24,900 in July to 1.58 million.
Overall unemployment, as measured by International Labour Organization standards, rose to 7.8 percent between April and June, the most since 1996. That compares with 9.4 percent in the U.S. in July, 9.4 percent in the euro region in June and 5.4 percent in Japan.
The employment rate fell to 72.7 percent from 73.6 percent, matching the biggest quarterly drop since 1971. The weaker job market is keeping a lid on pay. Average earnings excluding bonuses grew an annual 2.5 percent, the least since records began in 2001.
Claimant unemployment has risen 17 consecutive months and stood at 4.9 percent in July, the highest level since 1997. In June, the number of claims rose 21,500 instead of the 23,800 initially reported.
The economy has shrunk 5.7 percent over the past five quarters, putting Britain on course for its worst slump since World War II. GDP contracted 6 percent over seven quarters in the recession that began in 1979.