SCOTLAND’S jobless total has jumped by 16,000 as the impact of the North Sea crash and factory lay-offs starts to bite.
But the situation is more encouraging across the rest of the UK, which is enjoying record employment and falling numbers of people out of work, official figures yesterday found.
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday hailed the news during his budget speech, insisting the UK economy is now “one of the strongest in the world”.
He added: “The British economy is growing because we didn’t seek short-term fixes but pursued a long-term economic plan.
“The British economy is resilient because whatever the challenge, however strong the headwinds, we’ve held to the course we set out.”
Across the UK, unemployment was 28,000 lower in the three months to January at 1.68 million, the sixth consecutive quarterly fall.
The number of people on the claimant count, including those on Jobseeker’s Allowance, was cut by 18,000 last month to 716,700, the lowest since 1975.
Employment has reached a record high of 31.4 million after an increase of 116,000. The Scottish unemployment rate is now 6.1 per cent, which is above the rate of 5.1 per cent for the whole of the UK, with 171,000 people out of work north of the Border.
But more people are in work in Scotland than ever before as overall employment increased by 17,000.
This can happen alongside growing unemployment as more people enter the labour market through immigration and students leaving university. The number of people in work now stands at 2.6 million.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “These figures are a reminder of the challenges facing Scotland’s economy, in particular in the oil and gas industry.
“It is vital that Scotland’s two governments work together to do everything possible to boost the Scottish economy.”
The Scottish Government’s fair work secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the country is outperforming the UK on both employment and inactivity, with youth employment rates also improving.
But she added: “We are still seeing evidence of ongoing volatility in Scotland’s labour market despite the positive longer term trends.
“The low price of oil and its wider effects remain one of a number of significant challenges affecting employment opportunities and the latest statistics on unemployment demonstrate that there can be absolutely no let-up in our efforts.”
Scotland is the only one of the devolved nations which saw a rise in unemployment in yesterday’s figures, with the jobless total in Wales falling by 8,000 to 79,000, while in Northern Ireland, unemployment remained static at 61,000.
The slump in the oil and gas industry has resulted in the loss of an estimated 65,000 jobs largely north of the Border. Hundreds of jobs have also been lost in the first few weeks of this year as Texas Instruments in Greenock, Polaroid Eyewear in West Dunbartonshire and Hawick Knitwear all announced closures.