Unemployment has broken the two million mark for the first time since 1997.

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics show that by the end of January, 2.03 million people had no job. The number is up 165,000 since October and 421,000 since January last year.

That brings the unemployment rate – the percentage of the labour force without a job – to 6.5%.

As a result, 1.39 million claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance in February - up 138,400 over the previous month and up 595,600 over the year. It represents the largest monthly increase since comparable records began in 1971.

Dan Plant, money analyst at MoneySavingExpert.com, says: “For anyone who has lost their job or is worried they might, this is a tough time. The key to financial survival is to do a budget, try to cut all your costs, and ramp up your income.”