Number of Scots in employment nears record high

The number of Scots in work continues to climb and is close to a record high, with ministers in Edinburgh and London both welcoming the publication of the latest quarterly labour market statistics today.

The employment rate north of the Border reached 75.3 per cent in the three month period ending in January, a rise of 0.3 per cent year-on-year, compared to a UK rate of 76.1 per cent.

Unemployment fell again to 3.4 per cent, slightly below the UK rate of 3.9 per cent, while the employment rate is up 0.5 per cent year-on-year.

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Unemployment in Scotland at record low as economy confounds Brexit fears
More Scots are working. Picture: John Devlin

But Scottish Labour cautioned that while the headline figures looked encouraging, they did not solve a “crisis of low pay and insecure contracts” across the economy.

It was also revealed yesterday that the numbers of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance or out of work Universal Credit is up 6,600 from January and 18,900 on the same time last year.

UK-wide, the employment rate has set a new record – breaching 76 per cent for the first time ever – while unemployment has dipped below four per cent for the first time since 1974.

But 22 per cent of Scots aged 16-64 remain “economically inactive”, meaning they are neither in work or claiming benefit.

Image: National Registrars of Scotland

Business minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Despite the continued challenges of Brexit, the Scottish jobs market continues to strengthen.

“Scotland is performing particularly well on unemployment rates for women and young people. At 2.6% for women and 7.4% for young people, both rates are significantly lower than in the rest of the UK.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “Scotland’s two governments are working together to strengthen our economy and create jobs, with initiatives such as our growth deal programme beginning to reap rewards. In the last few weeks we have co-signed the £250 million Ayrshire growth deal and announced £345 million in joint government funding for the Borderlands.

“The UK Government’s investment in growth deals in Scotland is now more than £1.35 billion, and shows our huge commitment to growing Scotland’s job sector.”

Labour market experts said there was now little room for unemployment to fall further across the UK and that levels of vacancies remained at a near record high.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “These headline figures look encouraging but we know that being in work does not necessarily lift a person out of poverty.

“Ministers hailing these figures as a sign of the health of the economy are not living in the real world.

“Real earnings are still lower than before the financial crash.”