Scottish employment rate hits 5 year high

The Scottish Government say investment in capital projects, like the Forth Crossing, will lead to more jobs. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The Scottish Government say investment in capital projects, like the Forth Crossing, will lead to more jobs. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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SCOTLAND’S jobless total has jumped by 10,000, with a north-south divide emerging across the UK.

The rising unemployment level in Scotland compares with a fall of 24,000 UK-wide where the jobless total now stands at 2.487 million, according to official figures covering May to July this year. But the encouraging UK picture is driven by London and the South-East, with half the country suffering a hike in unemployment.

The hefty jump in Scotland takes the jobless total to 203,000. But the overall position remains healthier than the UK as a whole which now has an unemployment rate of 7.7 per cent compared with 7.4 per cent north of the Border.

More encouragingly there has been an increase in the amount of Scots in work which is up by 6,000 and now stands at 2.54 million, a five-year high.

The apparent contradiction between rising unemployment and an increase among people in work is explained by more people starting to look for work.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: “While we have seen encouraging signs for our economy, the economic conditions remain difficult and we cannot and will not be complacent.

“The government’s priority is to create opportunities to help people back into work. The key to a successful labour market is to get the economy growing and that is what we are doing.”

Over the year as a whole unemployment fell by 19,000 in Scotland and the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance fell by 2,900 from July to 126,000 in August.

Youth employment is also continuing to improve, with the number of young people working up by 11,000 over the past year. Scotland’s youth employment rate continues to be the highest of all nations in the UK, at 57.2 per cent, compared to 49.8 per cent across the UK.

Scottish finance secretary John Swinney said the figures also show a further reduction in economic inactivity.

“More Scots are actively seeking employment,” he said. “The Scottish Government remains committed to delivering ambitious programmes to support the recovery that will help our people, communities and businesses. The Westminster Government’s continued pursuit of austerity is the biggest risk to Scotland’s economic recovery.”

And there is a significant north-south divide in the unemployment picture across the UK. The overall fall of 24,000 is driven by big drops in London and the South-East of 36,000 between May and July.

The jobless total was actually up across half the UK regions with the North-East and

North-West along with Scotland among the areas continuing to suffer. Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the fall in unemployment, but warned that the UK’s fragile economic recovery still “has a long way to go.”

He told MPs in the Commons “As the Chancellor said, ‘We are turning the corner’. But we have got to build this recovery.

“We have got to go on backing businesses, we have got to go on dealing with our debts.

“There must be absolutely no complacency as we do everything we can to make sure this recovery delivers for hard-working people.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government was guilty of complacency. “Even today unemployment is rising in half of the country,” he said.

Miliband condemns Coalition ‘hubris’

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has accused Prime Minister David Cameron of “hubris and complacency” during angry Commons clashes over the economy and living standards.

Mr Miliband said the Coalition had presided over the slowest recovery in 100 years, and only the wealthy are benefiting from its policies.

He mocked Chancellor George Osborne for claiming in a speech that he had been proven right over his handling of UK plc.

Mr Miliband said: “The Chancellor went out and said he had saved the economy. Total complacency and total hubris, at a time when, even today, unemployment is rising in half the country.

“It was the Chancellor who choked off the recovery and now he wants to claim credit for it. And people’s living standards continue to fall.”

Mr Cameron admitted the Government “faced a challenge” to raise people’s living standards, but pointed to low interest rates and the £10,000 tax threshold.

He said Mr Osborne’s optimism was “legitimate”, adding: “Real complacency is going back to tax-and-spend and borrowing through the roof.”

Start of recovery no cause for complacency, warns Cable

BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has sounded a warning over the dangers of “complacency” over Britain’s economic recovery, insisting ministers “can’t rest on our laurels”.

Just two days after Chancellor George Osborne declared the economy was finally “turning a corner”, Mr Cable said that “a few quarters of good economic data” did not mean the country was out of the woods.

In a speech to business leaders last night he said that while there were the “beginnings of a recovery story”, it would not become “meaningful” until there was strong and sustained business investment, which remained well down on pre-crash levels.

His intervention is likely to revive old tensions with the Chancellor with whom he has clashed in the past.

In his address to a joint government/CBI industrial strategy conference at Warwick University, the Lib Dem minister said that while there were “encouraging” signs for the economy, there was still further to go.

Mr Cable stressed that the country’s improving economic news did not mean that the need for long-term re-structuring and re-balancing could be forgotten.

“If we are to turn the British economy around on a sustainable basis there will have to be relatively rapid growth of exports and import substitutes,” he said.

In a further sideswipe at Tory critics, he also emphasised the need for the government to have an industrial strategy, following a series of “classic market failures” – most notably in skills and innovation.

For Labour, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Mr Cable had delivered an “embarrassing slap-down” to Mr Osborne.

However, he insisted that the Lib Dems could not distance themselves from the Chancellor’s economic strategy.

“Vince Cable has supported the Chancellor’s policies which choked off the recovery in 2010,” he said.

“Three wasted years of flatlining that has left families worse off and done long-term damage to our economy is his record and he should take responsibility for it.”