The government pledged to plough ahead with its flagship work programme today, despite evidence showing it had a success rate of just 3.53%.
The disastrous figure is below the 5.5% 'deadweight cost' – the rate of success if the programme did not exist.
Nevertheless, ministers tried to put a brave face on the results.
"It's still early days, but already thousands of lives are being transformed," employment minister Mark Hoban said.
"Clearly these figures only give a snapshot picture as we're one year in, and the work programme offers support to claimants for two years, but these results are encouraging and something providers can look to build on."
The data shows "no direct evidence of movement into sustained employment", the report found.
Labour said it would use tomorrow's opposition day debate to bring ministers to the Commons to explain the statistics.
"Today we've learnt that the work programme turns out to be a miserable failure. It's just not working," Ed Miliband said.
"It's not working because over the first year of the work programme just over two in every hundred people have been getting a job.
"And estimates are that if the work programme didn't exist five in every hundred would be getting a job."
The work programme pays charities and private companies by results once they secure employment for at least six months. It is similar to the plan Ken Clarke introduced for rehabilitation of convicts.
Ministers insist the programme is taking longer to get going than originally anticipated but that the next set of figures will show a marked improvement.
They suggest the long-term unemployed often need several placements before they find sustainable work.