Job vacancies up, but thousands of Scots still struggling to get work

The growth in permanent job vacancies is at its highest rate in seven months, according to a new economic report for Scotland.

The Bank of Scotland labour market barometer showed “solid improvement” for the jobs market in March which was at the highest level since last July.

However, a second report warned that vacancies in Scotland have fallen by 17 per cent while more people are competing for fewer jobs.

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The Bank of Scotland survey is based on average statistics from across more than 100 recruitment and employment consultants.

In the report, out today, Edinburgh-based recruitment agencies reported the strongest increases in both permanent and temporary staff placements during March, while the availability of staff improved to the greatest extent in Aberdeen.

Permanent salaries also increased at the fastest rate in Aberdeen, followed by Edinburgh. Dundee had the most significant rise in temporary hourly pay rates. Overall, rate of wage inflation was at a seven-month high.

Meanwhile, a report from employment website said Scotland had suffered a “huge fall” in vacancies available, down 17 per cent.

The site said the average number of applicants for every job had increased from 15 to 20 in the past year, rising to more than 50 for some vacancies.

Sectors such as accountancy, aerospace and engineering had seen strong growth this year, but this was offset by a “significant” fall in public sector jobs, which were down by 58 per cent year-on-year, said the report.

Totaljobs said there was a danger that people would be desperate enough to apply for any kind of work rather than in their chosen career, which would increase the number of applicants.

Even with the improvement in March cited by the Bank of Scotland survey, the health of the vacancy market is still down compared to March 2011.

STUC general secretary Stephen Boyd said it is hardly cause for celebration.

“It’s very difficult to adjudicate between these two positions,” he said. “To say this is the strongest figures in seven months is completely insufficient to get the economy back on an even keel.

“The number of unemployed is still up, so the vacancy level is kind of meaningless.

“What we need is a rapid rise in the vacancy level. This is really not the kind of good news that should have anyone celebrating.”

Both reports were published ahead of new UK unemployment figures due on Wednesday which are expected to show another increase on last month’s total of 2.67 million, with 1.6 million jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

Donald MacRae, chief economist at Bank of Scotland, insisted its survey showed the labour market was improving.

He said: “This provides further evidence of an economy beginning to reverse the slowdown experienced at the end of last year and raises hopes of a return to moderate growth in 2012.”

The Bank of Scotland’s survey found IT and computing were showing the best growth, with blue-collar jobs showing the slowest increase.

The blue collar sector and hotel and catering had fewer temporary jobs available, while other sectors had an increase.