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Scottish unemployment falls to new record low of 3.4%

JobCentreScotland’s unemployment rate has fallen to a new record low of 3.4%, below the UK rate of 3.9% – its lowest since 1975.

The number of Scots in work rose by 13,000 to 2.6 million, an employment rate for those of working age of 75.3%. Across the UK  the number in employment hit  a new record of 32.7 million. The 76.1% UK employment rate is the highest since records began in 1971.

Scottish Business Minister Jamie Hepburn welcomed the fall in unemployment – but warned that leaving the European Union could “cost jobs”.

Mr Hepburn said: “Despite the huge and continued challenges of Brexit, the Scottish economy and 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 at record lows and significantly lower than in the rest of the UK.

“However, while Scotland’s economy and jobs market continues to grow, the UK government’s Brexit plans, in whatever form, will cost jobs, make people poorer and damage our society.”

Dr Stuart McIntyre of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said:  “On the face of it, today’s headline labour market statistics make good reading for the Scottish economy. The unemployment rate is at 3.4%, below that of the UK as a whole, and the employment rate increased further in the last three months to 75.3%. This suggests that any apparent Brexit uncertainty still isn’t feeding through to the key labour market indicators. 

“That being said, it is important to caution that these impressive headline numbers are not leading to the improvement underlying wages and earnings we might ordinarily expect. Indeed in the latest early PAYE data, earnings growth in Scotland appears to be lagging behind the rest of the UK despite our lower unemployment rate. In 2017/18, average earnings of PAYE taxpayers grew 2.5% in Scotland against 3.3% in rUK, a trend which has continued into 2018/19.”

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, because of the crisis of low pay and insecure contracts across our economy. 

“The Fraser of Allander institute notes that earnings growth in Scotland appears to be lagging behind the rest of the UK. 

“SNP 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. People are working hard but still struggling.

“That’s why Labour would introduce a plan for high quality jobs, with an industrial strategy, a real living wage and an end to zero hours contracts so that work will pay for people across Scotland.”

Latest economic data: check out our exclusive State of the Nation data briefing

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