One in four teenagers with poor qualifications leave school to become unemployed, according to new research.
A quarter of 16-year-olds who left full-time education with only one GCSE are out of work, alongside one in five 18-year-olds with one A-level, a study by the Office for National Statistics revealed on Wednesday
By the age of 24, around one in seven of those with a single GCSE were still jobless, compared to 7% who left school with A-levels.
The research also revealed that one in four of those leaving university with a degree were unemployed as they started looking for a job.
Just over half of young jobseeker's allowance claimants were looking for work such as sales assistants or shop cashiers.
Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds has risen to 1.04m, the highest number since 1986/87, with around 300,000 of these full-time students who are looking for work.
London had the highest youth unemployment rate at 24%, although a number of young people looking for work in the capital were also at university, with the lowest in the South West at just under 15%.
Spain has the highest level of youth unemployment in the European union at 47%, while the lowest rate is in Austria (7%).
The UK rate is 22%, in line with the EU average.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Today's figures show the importance of higher qualifications in helping young people into work.
"But with ministers putting up fresh barriers to higher education by hiking tuition fees and scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance, the scar of mass joblessness that is hitting today's youngsters could follow some of them into their late 20s or even 30s.
"The government's cut-price work experience scheme is woefully ill-equipped to deal with the scale of our jobs crisis. Young people need tailored support and experience of proper paid jobs to give them the best possible chance of moving into work.
"Failing to provide this investment is hurting young people today and is going to cost us all in the long run."