George Osborne has suffered a setback only a week after his budget with the worst set of official jobs figures in two years.
Taking markets and forecasters by surprise, unemployment rose to 5.6 per cent in the three months to May 2015 and employment fell by 67,000.
It was the first fall in employment since April 2013 and the first rise in the unemployment rate since November of the same year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
There was little cause for cheer in the wage data, either. Average earnings rose by 3.2 per cent, the best three-monthly performance since April 2010, but fell short of expectations of 3.3 per cent. The increase was driven by bonuses, while the growth in regular pay crept up from 2.7 per cent to 2.8 per cent. For the month of May alone, regular pay fell from 2.7 per cent to 2.6 per cent — the second month running it has slipped lower.