YOUTH unemployment in Scotland is at its lowest level in six years, with more than a third fewer people aged 16 to 24 registered as out of work.
Official figures reveal a total of 72,000 young people are now unemployed in Scotland, 29,000 fewer than last year and the lowest level since 2008, when the economic downturn began to take hold.
The number of young people claiming Jobseekers Allowance has also fallen – 20,200 young people were on the claimant count in September 2014, a decrease of 9,900, or 32.8 per cent over the year.
The fall in Scotland is outstripping the UK overall, with the Scottish youth unemployment rate down 5.6 percentage points over the year compared to the UK unemployment rate, which is 5.1 percentage points lower over the year – while only nine of the EU 28 countries have a lower youth unemployment rate than Scotland.
However, the figures showed that young men are far more likely to be unemployed than their female counterparts – with an unemployment rate of 22.5 per cent, more than double that of women aged 16 to 24.
First Minister Alex Salmond said that the figures were the latest in a raft of positive economic data released in recent weeks.
Last week, it emerged Scotland’s economy enjoyed the fastest GDP growth in almost seven years, rising by 0.9 per cent in the second quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, separate data showed that overall unemployment figures fell by a record 40,000, with the number in work north of the Border rising to more than 2.6 million.
Mr Salmond said: “These figures are another positive sign that youth employment in Scotland continues to increase and demonstrate that Scotland’s economic recovery is ongoing.
“Scotland now has a higher employment rate, lower unemployment rate and lower inactivity rate for young people than the rest of the UK. Now, the number of young people unemployed in Scotland is at the lowest level for six years.”
Young people were particularly hard hit by the last recession as companies laid off workers and froze recruitment.
Scottish Labour’s deputy finance spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: “A drop in youth unemployment is welcome but the Scottish Government’s target should be to eradicate youth unemployment in Scotland.
“It is important that we look beyond the headline figures and ensure that we have a job market that creates stable, well-paid and full time jobs for our young workforce. The Scottish Government must ensure that the jobs being created pay the living wage and are not insecure, part-time, or zero-hour contracts.”
SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald added: “The excellent progress made on youth employment is testament to the Scottish Government’s stewardship of the limited economic powers currently in Scotland’s hands.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “This is welcome news and clear evidence the UK government’s long-term economic plan is working.”