A million more workers are under-employed now than on the eve of the recession in early 2008, according to a TUC analysis of official figures published.

The number of under-employed workers – those doing part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time ones or wanting more hours in their current jobs – has increased by 42% over the last four years to reach 3.3 million.

The analysis shows that under-employment is an even greater problem than has previously been realised, because it is not just those in part-time jobs who want to work full-time who are under-employed. Many more workers across the economy want more hours in their existing jobs.

More than one in ten workers across the UK are under-employed, though the likelihood of being affected varies considerably by age, gender and job sector.

Women are more likely to be under-employed than men, with around one in eight employed women finding themselves without enough hours.

Under-employment is most common in low-skilled jobs, where around one in five workers are not getting enough hours. People working in sales and customer services are also increasingly likely to be under-employed. These occupations also have the highest rates of unemployment.

There has also been a recent surge in under-employment in professional occupations such as teaching, nursing, legal and skilled business jobs. The number of under-employed women in these jobs has more than doubled since 2008, increasing by 127%.

Young people are almost twice as likely to be under-employed as any other age group with around one in five young people in this position. This, combined with high rates of joblessness, illustrates just how desperate the UK’s youth jobs crisis is.

The sharpest rises in under-employment have taken place in Northern Ireland, the East Midlands and the North West although levels have increased by at least a third in every region of the UK.

The TUC analysis comes as unemployment has fallen slightly in recent months, although many new jobs created in London could end when the Paralympics finishes.

However, rising under-employment shows that there are deep rooted problems in the labour market, with more and more people not working or earning enough to get by.

While any job is better than no job at all, particularly during a recession, the TUC is concerned that under-employment is becoming an ever-more permanent feature of the labour market.

Under-employment causes a huge cut in pay, and often also involves working well below your skill level. Long periods of this kind of work can put a real strain on the finances of workers and their families, and can damage people’s career prospects, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

“A million people have lost their jobs since the eve of the recession in 2008. But this tragic figure only tells half the story. A further million people are now trapped in jobs that don’t have enough hours to provide the income they need to get by.

“Young people, women and low skilled workers are bearing the brunt of our under-employment crisis. It is alarming just how few young people today are able to find a job working enough hours. This is a criminal waste of the talent and skills they have – all because of a crisis they didn’t cause.

“Rising under-employment blows apart the argument made by the new right crop of Conservative MPs who think Britain is a nation of shirkers.

“People in the real world know that fewer hours mean less pay, and an even bigger struggle to pay the bills. That’s why over three million people say they want more work.

“Any job may be better than no job at all but long periods of under-employment can do permanent damage to people’s careers. Ministers need to start taking the issue seriously as it’s dragging down the economy as well as causing financial hardship.

“Solving our under-employment crisis is not easy, and it won’t be tackled through endless unpaid work initiatives.

“What the country needs is an economic strategy that puts people’s futures ahead of self-defeating austerity. Cuts in infrastructure spending must be reversed and growing industries need more Government support. We also need banks to start lending again, so that businesses can grow and create jobs.”