A drop in the jobless rate has been overshadowed by a rise in the number of long-term unemployed, prompting unions to call on the Government for more action to kickstart a recovery in the labour market.

The jobless total dropped 51,000 to 2.61 million in the quarter to April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, but the number of people unemployed for more than a year increased by 85,000 to 886,000.

In addition, the number of people unemployed for more than two years rose 29,000 to 434,000, while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in May rose by 8,100 to 1.6 million, ending two months of declines.

Unison leader Dave Prentis said: "The figures shine a harsh light on the hard-core of the unemployment crisis in the UK - that of long-term unemployment.

"The number of people unemployed for more than two years continues to rise. We know that the longer someone is out of work, the more difficult it is to get back into it."

He added: "The reality is that many people are suffering as a result of stagnant growth and the brutal public sector cuts, and the Government needs to wake up to this and take action if we are to see any true signs of recovery."

However, the number of people in work saw its biggest increase since the quarter to August 2010 as the employment rate increased by 166,000 to almost 29.28 million - nearly equally split between full and part-time workers.

Almost eight million people are now in a part-time job, while those working part-time because they cannot find full-time work increased by 25,000 to 1.4 million.

Self-employment has reached a record figure of 4.17 million, up by 84,000 since the previous quarter.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "Any fall in unemployment is very welcome but I remain cautious over the next few months, given the continuing economic challenges we face."