Long-term unemployment is at "crisis" levels, threatening to plunge older workers into premature retirement, a new report has warned.
The TUC said that while the labour market had improved in recent months, with the jobless total falling, the number of people out of work for at least a year has increased.
Almost half of unemployed workers over the age of 50 have now been jobless for a year or more, while the number of 18 to 24-year-olds out of work for at least six months has increased by over a third in the past year to 403,000.
The report, ahead of official unemployment figures on Tuesday, warned that long spells out of work can permanently damage career prospects and future earnings.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Falling unemployment has been the one bright spark in an otherwise gloomy economic climate so we'll be looking for more good news tomorrow.
"But even as unemployment falls, a growing number of people are being left behind and risk permanent career damage from long periods out of work.
"With around one in five young people neither in work or training, it's absolutely vital that the Government puts in place adequate support to prevent an epidemic of long-term unemployment.
"Failing to invest in young people today not only carries a terrible personal cost for the individuals and their families struggling for work, but also carries long-term economic costs and increases the risk of social upheaval that no-one wants to see."