Young people have been particularly hard hit by the recession. In the three months to April, 462,000 people aged 16 and 17 were in employment, 16.5% less than in the same period a year earlier.
In the same three months, 3.5m people in the 18-to-24 age range were in employment, down 4.8% from the same period a year earlier. The unemployment rate in that age group was 16.6%, the highest it has been since 1993, the TUC said.
"Youth unemployment is now at its highest rate for 15 years. And it will get worse when millions of fresh school leavers and graduates start looking for work in the coming weeks," said TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber.
"Young people are experiencing labour difficulties, which will intensify over the summer as this year's school and college leavers enter the labour market," Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said.
The number of men and women of retirement age - plus 65 for men or plus 60 for women - in employment rose by 2.6% in the same period from a year earlier, the only age group to register a rise.
Analysts welcomed the data, but said it was too early to hail it as a turning point in the recession.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "These jobless figures are slightly better than feared, but the overall situation remains grim... It is much too early to talk about the end of recession and it is important not to withdraw the policy stimulus before there is firmer evidence that the economy has stabilised."
"We are certainly moving in the right direction and this is one of a number of very encouraging signals that we have seen," said Alan Clarke, UK economist at BNP Paribas.
However, he added: "The economy may actually start to expand, but it won't be very fast... and until the economy is growing in line with its long-term average we will continue to lose jobs and we will continue to see downward pressure on wages."
"It's better than expected. It is is probably still too soon to conclude that we have reached any turning point, but it is moderately encouraging," said Ross Walker, the UK economist at RBS Financial Markets.
Philip Shaw, the chief economist at Investec, said: "Once again, unemployment figures show a smaller-than-expected rise in the jobless total, which is good news."
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