The number of Britons unemployed rose in February to the worst level in more than two years, the government said in a grim report for a nation wrestling with recession.

The Employment Department said unemployment rose in February by 85,600 to 2.05 million people, or 7.2 percent of the work force. The revised unemployment rate for January was 6.7 percent.On a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of unemployed rose to 1.98 million.

The rise in unemployment was the 11th in a row and the fifth-highest monthly increase since 1971.

Employment Secretary Michael Howard said unemployment was still well below the European Community average.

Unemployment is running at 9.1 percent in France, while the rate in Germany is 7 percent and in the United States, 6.5 percent.