Tony Blair's clarion call to the business community to support the initiative came as unemployment figures showed that the number of jobless 18 to 24- year-olds stood at 118,000 compared with the Government's original target in 1995 of 250,000.
David Willetts, Tory employment spokesman, said the number of young people out of work was falling towards 100,000.
"The Government is pressing on with its expensive pounds 8m advertising campaign for the New Deal when, in many parts of the country, employers will now have difficulty finding young people who have been unemployed for more than six months."
Andrew Smith, the employment minister, argued, however, that unemployment remained high by historical standards.
Mr Blair said: "This is nothing less than a crusade and one that brings together government, business and people in a common purpose because unemployment has wrecked the lives of too many young people for too long."