Bill Jordan, president of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said they represented 'a devastating millstone of misery that is holding back the British economy'.
He added: 'They represent a final warning to 'inaction man', Norman Lamont, that he must go for a bold, imaginative manufacturing-based Budget to break the crisis of confidence that grips British industry.'
Alan Jinkinson, general secretary of Nalgo, Britain's biggest public service union, said: 'This wholesale slaughter of jobs must stop. The butcher's knife is poised over every single family in Britain. The Government admits to 3 million jobless. We know the true figure is 4 million and it's going to get worse.
'How many more must go before John Major, this jobs Jonah, takes real action? Unemployment and the fear of it is the worst disease we face today. Collapse and decline are staring us all in the face unless urgent steps are taken to regenerate our pitiful economy.'
He said the pounds 24bn a year 'wasted on the obscenity of unemployment' should be used to invest in the economy - to build houses, schools, roads - to provide real work with real wages. 'Full employment is not a pipe dream - it's a question of political will and public investment.'
Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of the National Union of Public Employees, said the Government had to do something 'because its policy of doing nothing and simply waiting for green shoots of economic recovery to come through is not working'.
Tom Clarke, shadow Scottish Secretary, said the unemployment figures were 'devastating local communities and hitting every family in Scotland'.
He is to seek an urgent meeting with Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and calls for a three-point jobs package for Scotland: reversing training cuts; a commitment in the Budget for investment in infrastructure - especially rail links, transport and modern plant and machinery - and promoting local developments bringing together local councils, chambers of commerce and other appropriate bodies.
But Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, said Britain was beginning to see a recovery and the unemployment figures were 'always one of the last to respond to that'.