Leaders: Scotland labour market | Festival downturn

'Scotland's labour market has shown remarkable resilience'. Picture: Getty
'Scotland's labour market has shown remarkable resilience'. Picture: Getty
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FOR such a deep recession and its prolonged aftermath, Scotland’s labour market has shown remarkable resilience, with continuing falls in unemployment.

Moreover, this resilience looks set to continue, judging by the latest Bank of Scotland Report on Jobs. This indicated further growth of both permanent and temporary staff appointments last month. Permanent job vacancies in particular are rising at the strongest pace since January. Concurrently, average salaries paid to permanent staff rose markedly in May, with the rate of inflation the sharpest for five years.

This survey is particularly welcome news in the light of levels of under-employment in Scotland revealed in a study published by the Scottish Government. An analysis jointly prepared with the STUC shows more than 250,000 workers want to work longer hours, a rise of 80,000 on 2008, before the downturn got under way. Many are working part-time and want a full-time job or more hours. Some are full-time and would like extra hours.

The largest rise within this group was among private sector women in permanent roles. However, it should be noted that many workers, particularly women, value the flexibility that temporary and part-time work offers.

The survey bemoans the fact that hourly earnings have dropped by 8.1 per cent in real terms since the downturn began, though this is slightly less than the UK average. Faced with severe pressures on domestic demand, continuing recession in the eurozone and cutbacks in the public sector, unemployed workers have had little option but to price themselves back into work. This has certainly helped the UK overall to avoid the mass unemployment of the 1930s which many feared would be the case. Indeed, it is a remarkable feature of the recession and its subsequent glacial recovery that the workforce participation rate in recent quarters across the UK overall is the highest for more than 20 years.

Contributing to this strength has been a remarkable increase in the numbers of self-employed. Figures quoted in the Scottish Government survey show that there are now just over 300,000 self-employed workers in Scotland – one-eighth of the workforce. And nearly four out of every ten people working over the age of 65 are self-employed. These figures may also help explain the recent improvement in Scotland’s business start-up rate.

The Bank of Scotland’s labour market barometer, which has now risen to its highest level since last December, suggests a continuing improvement in the outlook. The number of people placed into both permanent and temporary jobs rose in the month while vacancies increased across most sectors. “These results”, says the bank’s chief economist Donald MacRae, “provide further evidence that business confidence is slowly being restored, enabling the Scottish economy to record much sought-after growth during 2013.” Encouraging indeed.

Shock rock festival downturn

IS IT a change in Scottish tastes? Has last year’s terrible weather discouraged audiences? Or is it that money is just that bit tighter again this year?

Big-name rock festivals in Scotland such as T in the Park and Rockness are said to be left with thousands of unsold tickets, while smaller and boutique-style events look to be in high demand.

It never does to underestimate the public craving for novelty. Even though there has been a dramatic expansion in the number of events over the past ten years, smaller festivals are expanding and reporting faster sales than ever.

But disposable incomes have continued to be under pressure. And this suggests that many may be opting to give the bigger, more established – and more expensive – concerts a miss while more recent additions to Scotland’s musical calendar come with lower prices.

Opportunistic early purchases of T in the Park tickets in the hope of selling them on at a profit nearer the date have certainly faded. And it could even be that regular attendees, like Christmas shoppers, are playing a game of chicken with the touts (and organisers) – holding off purchases till the last minute in the hope of forcing prices down. The Rockness site has been scaled down, while T in the Park promoters, after the slowest advance sales in years, have opted for mailshots to drum up business.

Sunnier weather and a seasonal desire to get out of doors may well spring a late and pleasant surprise. The good news for smaller event organisers is that there is a clear demand for new events and at a price that more appropriately reflects today’s

economic conditions.