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Pressures weigh on jobs market

Scottish unemployment falls to record low as UK wages rise

Jamie Hepburn

Jamie Hepburn: ‘creating the right economic environment’ (pic: Terry Murden)


Scotland’s unemployment rate fell to a record low of 3.7% over the last quarter, providing some positive news for Finance Secretary Derek Mackay ahead of tomorrow’s Budget.

At a UK level the unemployment rate is 4.1% although the figures also show record numbers in work and rising job vacancies that firms are struggling to fill. Wages are continuing to rise at their highest level for nearly a decade, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, went up by 3.3% in the three months to October, the biggest rise since November 2008.

Average weekly wages are £495, £25,740 a year, the highest since 2011, once adjusted for inflation. The number of people in work rose by 79,000 to 32.48 million, a record high and the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Unemployment increased by 20,000 to 1.38 million, although the total is still lower than a year ago.

Scotland’s Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Scotland’s unemployment rate fell again, down to 3.7%, which is lower than the UK rate of 4.1% – where unemployment has remained unchanged over the quarter. This is our lowest unemployment rate on record.

“Although overall employment fell very slightly over the quarter, on employment for women and young people, we continue to outperform the UK with a rate of 71.3% for women, higher than the UK rate of 71.2%, and 58.8% for young people, higher than the UK rate of 55.9%. Compared to the UK we also have lower rates of unemployment for both women and young people.

“We remain committed to creating the right economic environment for jobs growth – and our record on unemployment shows this is working. However, Brexit remains the biggest threat to Scotland’s prosperity and these statistics reinforce the urgent need to ensure the positive work we are doing to strengthen our economy is not undone.

“The upcoming Budget will set out how we help protect Scotland as far as we can from the damaging uncertainty of Brexit and how we will deliver on our vision of a healthier, wealthier and fairer country. Ultimately, we believe staying in the EU is in Scotland’s best interests.”

Commenting on the UK figures, Matthew Percival, CBI head of employment, said: “A record employment rate and a rising number of jobs that can’t be filled are further signs that the labour market is tightening and that employers are finding it increasingly difficult to hire the people they need.

“While pay growth is improving at its fastest and most sustained rate in a decade, this is still slower than the UK has achieved in the past.

“Building on this requires stronger and more sustained productivity growth, not the fits and starts we’ve seen. There has been progress since the launch of the industrial strategy a year ago, but the government needs to focus more on providing a compelling vision for the coming years and tangible outcomes in each region.”

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “While the latest data confirms that the UK jobs market remains in good shape, the second successive rise in unemployment, coupled with a decline in the number of people who are not seeking work, is further evidence of the increasing tightness in the UK labour market.

“However, businesses report that the political and economic turbulence, together with significant difficulties finding the right staff, are diminishing recruitment intentions, which is likely to increasingly weigh on the UK labour market over the near term.”

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