THE number of people on out-of-work benefits is rising in almost every part of the south, figures revealed yesterday.

Statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions showed 22,070 people across the region claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in July – up by 292 from June.

A breakdown of the figures revealed that in most local authority areas – Southampton, the Isle of Wight, Basingstoke and Deane, Fareham, the New Forest, Test Valley and Winchester – the number of people on JSA increased.

However, two local authority areas – Eastleigh and Gosport – found their claimant counts falling between June and July.

The number of claimants in Southampton rose from 6,595 to 6,651, the figures showed.

The overall rise in jobless benefit claimants locally was in line with the picture nationally, where the number of people claiming JSA increased by 24,900 in July to 1.58 million – its worst level for more than 12 years.

Meanwhile, UK unemployment rose by 220,000 to 2.44 million in the three months to June, according to the Office for National Statistics, taking the jobless rate to 7.8 per cent. In the south east the unemployed total now stands at 263,000, or 5.9 per cent of the workingage population.

Mark Harper, Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, said: “Unemployment is fast becoming the most pressing social economic and political problem plaguing Britain.”

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson admitted that unemployment levels were “unacceptable” but claimed even more people would be out of work if the Tories had been in power during the recession.

The peer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “One thing I and the Government know is that any such level of unemployment is unacceptable.”

Lord Mandelson – currently “minding the shop” in Downing Street while Gordon Brown takes a holiday – said £5 billion was being spent on getting people back into jobs, whereas the Conservatives">Conservatives wanted to cut state investment in the economy by a similar amount.