Startling new figures have revealed that on average there are 10 jobseekers for every vacancy advertised in the UK. In one area of the south-east, 60 workers are available for each job.
This week, as unemployment is expected to burst through the 2 million barrier, The Observer can reveal that the spectre of mass unemployment is forcing the government to reinforce job centres, with civil servants diverted from child maintenance and disability claims.
Already 600 staff working for the Child Support Agency, which has been renamed the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, and 300 Pensions, Disability and Carers Service staff have been asked to work with the growing number of unemployed, to the anger of charities.
The full extent of the jobs misery is shown in a nationwide analysis by the TUC. In some parts of the country, the task facing jobseekers is critical. The Isle of Wight has more unemployed workers per new job than any other area. In total, there are 3,152 people chasing 52 advertised vacancies, as its main industries of tourism and manufacturing suffer from the credit crunch.
"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," said Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary.
As unemployment has risen in recent months, Gordon Brown and James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, have stressed the large number of job opportunities available, but the research shows that they are heavily outnumbered by unemployed workers. When Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire held a recruitment day recently to hire 150 staff, it attracted a crowd of up to 3,000 people.