UNEMPLOYMENT in Scotland increased by 7,000 to 158,000 between September and November 2014, although the number of people in work reached a record high.
The overall jobless figure for the UK fell to its lowest for more than six years, dropping by 58,000 to 1.91 million in the same period.
Scotland’s unemployment rate stood at 5.7 per cent – just below the UK rate of 5.8 per cent – according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, employment in Scotland rose by 1,000 over the quarter and reached a new record high of 2,612,000, with the number of adults in work now 50,000 more than the year before.
Separate Scottish GDP figures also showed the economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the period July to September last year, and was up by 3 per cent over the year – data hailed by the Scottish Government as the fastest annual growth since 2007.
SNP ministers also claimed Scotland was outperforming the UK, with a jobs growth equivalent of almost 1,000 Scots a week finding work.
However, the UK government claimed the overall figures showed its economic plan was working despite the rise in unemployment north of the Border.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “The UK government has stuck to its long-term economic plan, creating the right conditions to rebuild and rebalance our economy.
“Together with the safety and security which comes from being part of the UK, this has helped our businesses grow and create more sustainable jobs.
“The rise in unemployment over the past quarter highlights the challenges which remain.
“We will take responsibility to help those who fall out of work, ensuring they can make the most of the opportunities being created in communities across the country.”
The overall fall in UK unemployment, with a record 30 million people now in work, was hailed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
He said: “The drop in unemployment is welcome news. Behind the statistics are stories of people finding self-respect and purpose in life.”
Unemployment north of the Border is now 79,000 lower than when it peaked in 2010, the Scottish Government said.
At the same time, the number of women in work is at its highest ever at 1,292,000 or 72 per cent, while the youth unemployment rate is the lowest for five years at 16.4 per cent, or 68,000.
Scotland continues to have a higher employment rate than the UK, with 74.1 per cent of the population in work, against 73 per cent south of the Border.
Roseanna Cunningham, secretary for fair work, skills and training, said: “Scotland is again outperforming the UK on employment, unemployment and inactivity rates, and a percent expansion in our economy over the year is a clear demonstration of our growing strength, not least in the construction sector.”
However, Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary, said the latest findings represented a gloomy outlook for unemployed people in Scotland.
He said: “In the three months to November 2014, unemployment increased and employment grew only minimally.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “People will be concerned. We have seen that the SNP took their eye off the ball on day-to-day services when they focused on the referendum.”