Rise in youths out of work and education in England
The proportion of 16-24-year-olds not in employment, education or training in England at the end of 2010 was up on previous years, official figures show.
A total of 938,000 - 15.6% of 16-24-year-olds - were in this category (Neet) in December 2010, the highest final-quarter figure since 2005.
The government said the number was "still too high". Last week the youth unemployment rate hit a new peak.
Critics called for more investment in education rather than cuts.
Among 18-24-year-olds, the proportion who were Neet had also risen to 18.1% at the end of last year, up from the previous year, according to the figures, released by the Department for Education.
This was despite the fact that the third-quarter figures had been down on the previous year. The proportion classed as Neet changes over the academic year.
The increase comes amid concerns that young people have been hit particularly hard by the recession, as rising numbers of graduates battle for jobs and fill vacancies traditionally taken by school and college leavers.
'Back of the queue'
The proportion of 16-18-year-olds not in education, employment and training, however, has reached its lowest level, 162,000 (8.5%) since 2005.
This follows a push in recent years to encourage more 16-year-olds to stay on in education.
A government spokesperson said: "The number of young people who are Neet is still too high. It is young people who bear the brunt in any recession or downturn, which is why we are so focused on tackling the deficit and promoting growth."
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition says it plans to fund 75,000 extra adult apprenticeship places, as well as offering a new Work Programme to provide "personalised support and training to help unemployed young people into work".
A spokesman from youth charity The Prince's Trust said: "As thousands of unemployed graduates flood the jobs market, Britain's most disadvantaged young people are being pushed to the back of the queue.
"These young people may have come from households where no-one works, with no positive role models, or struggled at school, leaving with few qualifications. It is these vulnerable young people who need our support to help them into jobs," the spokesman said.
Last week, the youth unemployment rate reached 20.5%, its highest since comparable records began in 1992.
The government has axed the Education Maintenance Allowance study support grant for low income students in England, and the Future Jobs Fund, which has been used to fund temporary employment for 18-24-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales who have been out of work for more than six months.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said these moves, at a time when youth unemployment was at its highest in years, "could come back and haunt this country".
"Instead of erecting barriers to study, such as tripling the cost of tuition fees, the government should be following the example of other countries and be investing in education, not cutting the very services young people need," she said.
Figures for Neet young people are published separately in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.