Glasgow and Liverpool were in the top five so-called workless areas of the UK for the ninth consecutive year since records began.
Just over 30% of households in Glasgow were workless in the first quarter of last year, up from 28.7% the previous year, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Liverpool had the second highest percentage of workless households at 28.7%, down from having the highest in previous years.
The highest percentage of workless households in Wales was in the Central Valleys at 26.2%.
Long-term and temporary sickness was the main reason given for not working by people aged 16-64 living in workless households.
Other areas with the worst levels were Hull (27.6%), Birmingham (27.4%) and Wolverhampton (27.3%).
The UK average for workless households was 18.1% for 2012.
The ONS said the link between some areas with the highest percentages were that they were all heavily industrialised in the last century.
The lowest percentages last year were concentrated in the south of England, with 10.6% in Hampshire and around 11% in north Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, West Sussex and Surrey.
A third of people in Northern Ireland in workless households cited sickness or disability, compared with one in four in England.
London had the highest percentage of people in workless households who were studying, while the south west and east of England had the highest percentage where retirement was given as the main reason for not working.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "Nationally, the number of workless households has fallen by more than 425,000 since the coalition took office. This is good news, but we know there are areas where we need to do more.
"By reforming the welfare system to ensure people are better off in work than on benefits we are helping people across the country to get a job."