UK employment suffered its sharpest decline in more than four years in the three months to August, new figures reveal.
The number of people in work declined by 56,000 to 32.69 million in the quarter, as the number of people claiming unemployment benefits jumped higher, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The slump was significantly below forecasts by economists, who had predicted a 26,000 rise in employment.
The quarterly decline in employment was the heaviest fall since May 2015, when the level of employment slid by 65,000.
Unemployment also increased in August, rising from a 45-year low reported in July.
The level of UK unemployment increased by 22,000 to 1.31 million for the quarter, as the proportion of people out of work also increased.
Analysts had previously predicted that the rate of unemployment would stay flat at 3.8%, but the figures revealed an increase to 3.9% for the period.
Meanwhile, the jobs market weakened, as it slid to the eighth consecutive month of falling vacancies.
The number of vacancies fell by 11,000 to 813,000, the lowest level of vacancies since November 2017.
However, the fall represents a slowdown after vacancies had slid by 23,000 in the previous month.
The decline in employment was linked to the falling number of people under 25 in work, while all other age groups saw an increase in employment.
Meanwhile, the number of people deemed economically inactive increased by 57,000 to 8.68 million for the quarter.
Earnings continued to grow ahead of inflation, but the rate of wage growth slowed to 3.8% from 4% last month. Analysts had predicted that wage growth would stay at 4%.
Matt Hughes, deputy head of labour market statistics at the ONS, said: “The employment rate is rising year on year, but this growth has cooled noticeably in recent months.
“Among the under-25s, the employment rate has actually started to fall on the year.
“Pay growth continues to outstrip inflation, as it has done for over 18 months now.”