Scotland business

Scottish unemployment rate hits 25-year low

factory worker Image copyright Getty Images

Scotland's unemployment rate has fallen to a 25-year low, according to official figures.

The jobless rate fell to 3.8% in the period March to May, having stood at 4.5% in the previous quarter.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed it was Scotland's lowest rate since comparable records began in 1992.

Over the quarter, unemployment fell by 19,000 to 104,000, while the number of people in work increased by 25,000.

Over the same period, the UK unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percentage points to 4.5%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number out of work across the UK stood at 1.49 million, 64,000 fewer than for the preceding three months.

There was a slight fall on the previous quarter in the economic inactivity rate for Scots between the ages 16 and 64.

However, the rate of 22.9% was 1.2% higher than the equivalent period last year.

Those counted as economically inactive include people who are neither in work nor available for work.

'Resilient jobs market'

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: "These latest figures show our labour market remains resilient and robust with unemployment now at a record low.

"Our employment rate is also rising, which is good news, and means 25,000 more people are in employment compared to the last quarter.

"When considered alongside the fact that last week's GDP stats show Scotland's growth rate over the last quarter to be four times that of the UK, this is further evidence of the strength of the Scottish economy."

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Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Dean Lockhart described the latest statistics as "encouraging".

He said: "It shows that Scottish businesses have been resilient to any challenges thrown up by Brexit, and continue to perform well.

"It also exposes the SNP's scaremongering on the UK's decision to leave the EU.

"However, we cannot escape the fact that much of this fall in unemployment can be attributed to a rise in those who are now economically inactive."

Scottish Labour's economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "It is welcome to see some progress in the Scottish labour market, but there is no room for complacency from this nationalist government.

"Having a year-on-year increase of 40,000 people being economically inactive is deeply troubling."

'Continuing challenge'

Business leaders reacted cautiously to the figures.

Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said: "It is extremely welcome that Scotland's unemployment rate has fallen to just 3.8% in the three months to May.

"Whilst this is an outstanding achievement and compares very favourably to the rate of 4.5% across the UK as a whole, it is worth taking a look at some of the numbers behind the headline figure.

"Compared to this time last year, there are now 6,000 fewer people in employment in Scotland; whilst 65,000 more people are economically inactive.

"These numbers highlight the continuing challenge facing the Scottish economy at a time when businesses are seeking staff with the right skills to help them to succeed and grow."

Colin Borland, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Unemployment in Scotland is now very low indeed. Overall this is great news for firms and families.

"However some Scottish businesses are also reporting rising skills and labour shortages.

"Therefore - as Brexit negotiations continue - it is even more important that no matter when they arrived, European nationals who work for or run businesses in Scotland must be allowed to stay."

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