The British government, struggling to sustain economic growth, received more unwelcome news today as unemployment reached a record 3.3 million, 13.9 percent of the work force.
The number of unemployed, which now amounts to nearly one of every seven workers, jumped by 121,552 in January. Although January traditionally is not a good month, even the seasonally adjusted figures showed an increase of 18,200, to 3.1 million, also a record.
The figures place Britain second only to Belgium's 15.7 percent unemployed among the 10 countries of the European Community. Unemployment rose in every region of the country, including even the prosperous southeast.
The size of the increase came as a jolt to the Conservative government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as it has been seeking with some success to stop the slide in the nation's currency in foreign-exchange markets.
The pound seems to have regained a little strength, but aside from today's unemployment figures, it also became clear today that attempts at new talks to end the almost 11-month-old coal miners' strike have now collapsed.
The state-run National Coal Board refused to resume the talks because the miners failed to put in writing their willingness to discuss the board's right to close coal pits that produce at large losses.
The government seemed to have gained the upper hand in the strike as many miners drifted back to work after almost a year of economic hardship, but some observers suggested it might have overplayed its hand.