Almost a million jobs have been lost since 2007 in sectors such as manufacturing, retail, hotels and restaurants, which traditionally appeal to young people, according to a new study.
Research by the TUC found that finance and business services were the only areas with bigger workforces than before the recession.
Jobs that account for more than half of youth employment have suffered the biggest losses, with those in manufacturing falling by 14% over four years to end of 2011, a cut of over 400,000 posts, said the TUC.
More than 280,000 construction jobs were lost as well as 220,000 in retail, hotels and restaurants.
In contrast, employment in finance and business services grew by almost 100,000.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, said: "The UK economy desperately needs more jobs and the return of decent pay rises. Our hopes of a sustainable economic recovery depend on this.
"Ministers can start by introducing a guarantee of paid work or training for every young person who has been out of work for six months or more, as well as a new youth credit to boost access to training, work placements or progression into better jobs."
It came as a minister accused the previous Labour government of "hiding" the true scale of youth unemployment, and said the coalition was making changes to make jobless figures more "honest".
Employment Minister Chris Grayling also warned that the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance (JSA) is likely to increase in the coming months as people switch from other benefits because of the coalition's welfare reforms.
Speaking before new unemployment figures are released on Wednesday, Mr Grayling said that at any one time up to 40,000 young people were on a training scheme under Labour so did not show up on claimant count figures, even though they were still unemployed.
Around 1.3 million people were on a training allowance scheme under Labour so they "disappeared" from the jobless register, added Mr Grayling.
Under the coalition's work programme, no one disappears from the system because they continue to receive jobseeker's allowance, said the minister, adding: "What you see is what you get. That was not the case under the New Deal (Labour's employment programme)."
Grayling said that because people no longer automatically leave jobseeker's allowance when they start a work programme, the number of long-term claimants, especially young people, had "inevitably" risen.
"We`re giving a true picture rather than an artificial one."
Unemployment increased by 28,000 to 2.67 million between November and January, last month's figures showed, with 1.6 million claiming jobseeker's allowance.
On Tuesday Ed Miliband warned youth unemployment was a "ticking timebomb", accusing the government of complacency.
"Without real help, a generation is at risk of being left behind by this out of touch government," the Labour leader said.
“Today, Labour will say clearly to those young people: we are with you. We would provide you with real help – a guaranteed job for six months, along with training and development. And we would tax bankers’ bonuses to make it