Is your job a flexible friend or foe?

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Something has gone surprisingly right about the jobs market. Even David Cameron is describing it as a "miracle" - generously ascribing to supernatural powers what other prime ministers might have claimed, at election time, as their own handiwork.

The most recent figures show 248,000 more people in work across the UK, when winter is compared with last autumn. At the same time, 76,000 fewer people were looking for work.

Scottish employment and unemployment has been quite closely aligned with that of the UK for much of the downturn, but this month's figures - from the December to February survey - looked rather less impressive. Unemployment rose by 9000 to 167,000, while a growth in the total labour market meant it was possible also for employment to rise, by a comparatively very modest 3000.

Underneath those figures, there's a lot of change afoot, and a lot of it is not going as right as the headlines - surprisingly or otherwise. So as these are the last figures before the Westminster general election, let's take a look at what the Office for National Statistics can tell us about what's been going on over the past five years. Be prepared for quite a lot of numbers.

Inactive and out


The number of Scots adults in the labour market has been growing, as it has for the whole UK. Partly, that reflects a more attractive set of options as the recovery takes hold. It probably also reflects squeezed household earnings, meaning that partners need to supplement the wages of a main earner.

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Clydesdale woes worsen

Clydesdale Bank banknote

Mis-selling payment protection insurance? Which bank wasn't at it?

The compensation of customers has been providing a financial stimulus to the British economy far greater than any of the magic money tree promises coming from the political parties currently on the campaign trail.

Read full article Clydesdale woes worsen

Offshore profit slump

Shell logo on shirt

Recovery from recession includes at least three pay-out bonuses for those who own the capital. Competitors have been closed down or taken over. Assets are going cheaply for those feeling acquisitive. And workers are poorly placed to push for higher wages.

So it's no great surprise, after such a long downturn, that profitability is doing rather well. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just published figures showing as much.

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Rangers SNAFU, part 376

Rangers FC

It will come as no surprise to followers of events at Ibrox that it's back to code SNAFU - that is, the situation is normal, in that it's all, er, fouled up.

Thirty days ago, the nominated adviser for the holding company, Rangers International Football Club (RIFC), resigned. Trading on the stock exchange was suspended. The company was given 30 days to find a new one.

Read full article Rangers SNAFU, part 376

Scotch's trade winds turn stormy

Distillery worker

The mast and sails haven't been ripped off the good ship Scotch Whisky amid stormy trade winds, but after a decade of sterling export performance, she looks ready for a major overhaul.

The fall in total exports last year, published by the Scotch Whisky Association, won't come as a surprise to anyone who has been watching the big distillers publish their financial figures in recent months.

Read full article Scotch's trade winds turn stormy

New losses at Ibrox, new people to blame

Ibrox Stadium
The Three Bears are allies of fellow shareholder Dave King

Since the last time Rangers splashed its financial red ink in public, there's been yet another change of management at Ibrox.

And as there's another loss, and more bad news associated with it, the new chairman, Paul Murray, is stressing how disappointed he is by the mess he's been left.

Read full article New losses at Ibrox, new people to blame

Heated politics of Longannet going cold

Longannet Power Station
The closure of Longannet is almost certain to be brought forward to next March

Longannet power station is a bit of a monster. At 2,400 megawatts capacity, the huge plant on the banks of the Forth can keep the lights on for most of Scotland.

Recently, it's been sweating its 42-year-old sinews to do so, particularly when the wind drops and all those turbines stop supplying the power grid.

Read full article Heated politics of Longannet going cold

Links with London

BA planes at Heathrow
The Airports Commission is examining the short, medium and long-term future of UK airport capacity

Having sold off Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, the owners of Heathrow have now decided they want to woo Scotland.

The company seems to care much more about links between them than it did in olden times. That was less than three years ago, when they were part of one group, as a legacy of the state-owned British Airports Authority.

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Drilling for votes, distilling the recovery

George Osborne visiting an oil rig in the North Sea

The oil industry got what it wanted from George Osborne's pre-election Budget, and a bit more. So will it work?

Well, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says the tax cut of £1.3bn should lead to a 15% boost to production by the end of this decade. That's after a steep fall in recent years levelled out last year.

Read full article Drilling for votes, distilling the recovery

Incomers, income and outgoings

Chinese food

I've been working quite a lot on the subject of immigration into Scotland. And so have BBC colleagues.

We've had more than 180 minutes of radio on the subject and more than 90 minutes of Welcome to Scotland? television, plus at least 10 online articles.

Read full article Incomers, income and outgoings