More than 3.9m homes had no one with a job in last three months of 2011
Total of workless families has gone up by almost half a million since 2004
The number of households in which nobody has a job reached a record total of nearly four million last year.
Rising numbers of workless homes – where no one between the ages of 16 and 64 is employed – have been blamed on the recession and families on benefits unwilling to earn a living.
Figures published yesterday reveal that during the last three months of 2011 there were more than 3.9million homes in which no one had a job.
Almost one in five of the country’s households are now workless.
The results brought new pledges from ministers to try to persuade those dependent on benefits to go out and look for jobs.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said: ‘These figures confirm the challenge we face to get people into employment.
‘We have already taken urgent steps to reform the welfare system by introducing Universal Credit to make work pay, and our Work Programme which gives people the skills they need so that they can re-engage with the labour market.’
The figures revealed that 18.9 per cent of all homes have no adult of working age holding down a job, but in some parts of the country the number is even higher – more than a quarter of the homes in the North East with at least one adult of below retirement age had no one in work.
The total of workless families has gone up by almost half a million since 2004.
There are also 291,000 homes – not including those occupied by students – where no one has ever had a job, a figure that has doubled in the past 15 years. And among families in social housing, nearly 46 per cent have no adult in work.
Ministers are trying to encourage more of those on disability benefits who are capable of work to try to find jobs. And lone parents are being pressed into jobs by new benefit rules that mean their entitlement to claim income support stops when the child is five, as opposed to ten as in the past.
However unions said that the workless numbers were a result of a shortage of jobs.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘The record number of workless households reflect the lengthening dole queues across the country.
‘Joblessness on this scale is a tragedy for those struggling for work, and hits entire communities when so few are working and earning.
‘People are desperate for work and millions are taking any job they can, even if it’s part-time or well below their level of experience, to keep working.
Union bosses said the worrying figures were the result of lack of jobs, rather than welfare problems
‘Investing and encouraging decent, well-paid jobs is the only way to get the economy growing.’
The rising numbers of homes where people cannot or will not find work provoked a sharp exchange between Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and his Labour shadow, Liam Byrne.
Mr Byrne said: ‘The figures are fresh proof that the Government’s welfare to work reforms are now in chaos.’
Mr Duncan Smith, however, hit back at Labour and defended the Government’s record.
He said: ‘The Work Programme is now well on the way to getting 100,000 people into work, and we are tackling the entrenched benefit dependency and unemployment that Labour left us.’