More than a quarter of new primary teachers have yet to secure permanent work, a survey by The TES suggests.
Preliminary figures for 1,475 primary trainees who completed training courses this summer revealed that just 1,083 had found permanent posts in schools.
Some primary jobseekers say they have faced competition from up to 300 applicants. The north-west, north-east and south-west of England are among the areas worst hit. The number of primary-age children nationwide fell by an estimated 43,300 this year.
In Wales, the National Union of Teachers said only a quarter of the 1,150 trainees who completed primary courses in 2003 found jobs. A half of secondary applicants failed to find work.
Gethin Lewis, NUT Cymru secretary, urged the Welsh Assembly to guarantee new teachers a job, enabling them to complete their statutory induction year.
A telephone survey of 60 teacher-training institutions by The TES this week discovered that a number reported a significant reduction in vacancies so far, especially for primary teaching jobs. In nine colleges which have up-to-date figures a total of 392 out of 1,475 left without a job. One college in the North-west said 41 out of 110 trainees were jobless.
A spokesman said: "The drop in pupil numbers is starting to have an effect.
Up to two years ago, 95 per cent of primary students would have been in post by now."
A college in the North-east said about 60 out of 200 had not got a job and some had found work in Hungary and Australia. One in the South-east, where the job market is strong, said 70 out of 200 trainees had not found work.
Georgina Harcourt-Brown (pictured above), a 23-year-old who graduated from Homerton college, Cambridge, in the summer, applied for 30 jobs in the Leeds area but failed to find a post.
Ian Russell, 22, has had to look for work in a call centre despite graduating as a primary teacher from Swansea university. He said he applied for more than 20 jobs nearby without success.
The situation is more positive for new secondary teachers, with colleges saying as many as 95 per cent have found positions.
John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes university, said the situation could be worse for new teachers in 2005 .
A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said there was more competition for posts because of the Government's recruitment and retention policies.
The Teacher Training Agency is to launch a recruitment campaign this month, focusing on secondary shortage subjects.