Unemployment in advanced countries rose slightly in February, the OECD said today, a setback after recent falls.

Despite improvement in the general economic outlook for rich countries, the unemployment rate edged up to 7.6% from the January level, said the OECD.

The increase, which was due largely to rises in the US and some euro zone countries, came after three months of falls in the overall rate of unemployment in the 34 countries the OECD covers.

High rates of unemployment remain one of the main legacies of the financial and euro zone debt crises.

The OECD said there were 11.4 million more people unemployed in its member states than when the financial crisis began in July 2008.

This figure means that the OECD area has managed to reduce the total by 3.8 million since the highest point in April 2010.

However it still leaves 46 millio people qualifying as unemployed, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

In the recovering US, the unemployment rate rose in February to 6.7%, after falling for three months.

In the euro zone, it rose in the Netherlands, France and Italy.

In Spain, where unemployment has surged because of a debt crisis and local property market crash, it edged down 0.2 points to 25.6%.

In South Korea the rate rose to 3.9%, but the OECD said this was because an improvement in the outlook for the economy had motivated people to look for work.