According to official figures, the number of people seeking work-related benefits shot up by 126 per cent, with over 2.8 million people now requesting assistance from the government. For the three months to April this was estimated at 3.9%, 0.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier but largely unchanged on the previous quarter.
He added: "More detailed employment data up to April show a dramatic drop in the number of hours worked, which were down nearly nine per cent in the latest period, partly due to a six million rise in people away from work, including those furloughed".
In addition, the number of job vacancies plunged by 342,000 to 476,000 during the March-to-May period.
Jonathan Athow, the deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: "The slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labour market, especially in terms of hours worked".
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said early estimates show the number of paid employees dropped by 2.1 per cent in May compared with March, while job vacancies also slumped to a record low.
"These businesses can continue to access our extensive package of support, including our job retention scheme which has been extended until October - meaning it will have been open for eight months and will continue to support businesses as the economy reopens and people return to work".
The official employment rate was only available for the three months to April.
'The tapering of the furlough scheme from August, with a portion of the wage bill needing to be picked up by the private sector, could hit many businesses hard.
"Hiring new workers is also likely to be put on hold for some time".
The Institute of Employment Studies, or IES, a think tank, noted that the claimant count has jumped by 1.6 million since March, a pace comparable to figures from the Great Depression.
The former foreign secretary said it was "not necessary to have a two-metre separation between people to keep the virus in retreat where it is already at a low level" and cited the experience of the likes of Denmark, France and Germany where the "recommended distance is shorter" than in the UK.
"If the public health crisis is just starting to ease, today's figures show that the unemployment crisis is only just beginning", said Tony Wilson, director of the IES.
There was a particular fall in pay in the accommodation and foodservice industries. Earlier, British Airways slashed some 12,000 jobs.
The secretary-general of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O'Grady said that the market was on "red alert", and called for "strong action" to undo the damage to the economy.
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics warned that unemployment will surge "if only a small fraction of employers never bring back furloughed workers".
John Philpott, director of The Jobs Economist, a consultancy, grimly noted: "Looking at these figures is like watching the early part of a slow motion video of a auto crash, when you already know the awful outcome but have only witnessed the initial jolt".
Ahead of the ONS figures, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said: "We are increasingly anxious that the slow and confused health response is now being followed by a slow and confused response to saving jobs".
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the figures were "deeply concerning", adding that the government must begin work on a "Scottish jobs guarantee scheme to ensure Covid-19 does not create a lost generation of young workers". "Of course, you know the next stage of the unlock is July 4 at the earliest so there is a bit of time here", he said.
"We're looking at it now".