The latest employment figures show that record numbers of people of working age are now economically inactive. They also show the scale of the welfare challenge that the new Government has to tackle.

New figures published by the Office for National Statistics today show that while the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has gone down this month, there are nearly five million people claiming one of the main out of work benefits.

Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said: “These figures underline why it was so important to stop the jobs tax planned by the previous Government, and why we need to create real incentives for businesses to grow and create job opportunities.

"The figures also demonstrate why our planned Work Programme is so important.

"With nearly five million people on out of work benefits and record numbers of people who are economically inactive, we have to make sure that as the economy grows and jobs are created in the next few years that we learn from the mistakes of the past, and ensure that we provide real help and support for people on benefits so they can take advantage of employment opportunities and make the move into work.”

The single Work Programme will offer personalised support to people on a range of benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefits and Employment and Support Allowance.

Ministers have confirmed that they are determined to move quickly on setting up the new programme, which they plan to launch early next year.