Scotland business

Scottish jobless figures improve

Image caption Unemployment fell in Scotland but the claimant count was slightly up

Unemployment in Scotland has fallen slightly, according to the latest official statistics.

The number of people seeking work fell by 3,000 to 204,000 between May and July and by 33,000 over the year.

The Scottish unemployment rate now stands at 7.5%, below the UK average of 7.9%.

Employment also increased by 23,000 over the three-month period - and by 36,000 over the year - to stand at 2,496,000.

However, the number of Scots claiming Jobseekers Allowance last month rose by 1,200 to reach 145,700.

The level is up by 9,700 on August 2010.

Scotland was the only part of the UK to register falling unemployment over the past quarter.

In the UK as a whole, the jobless total rose by 80,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to July.

This was the largest increase in nearly two years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Youth unemployment

There was also a sharp rise in youth unemployment in the UK, which leapt from 78,000 to 973,000.

In Scotland, the number of people aged between 18 and 24 claiming unemployment benefit for six months or more rose by 1,300 between July and August to reach 11,500.

Public sector employment in Scotland fell by 25,200 in the year to the second quarter of 2011, while 57,700 more people found jobs in the private sector over the same period.

Responding to the latest data, First Minister Alex Salmond said it was encouraging to see Scotland's labour market continuing to improve.

He continued: "Among all the nations and regions of the UK, Scotland was the only place with falling unemployment over the quarter, and we also have the largest decline in the unemployment rate over the year.

"Indeed, the rise in Scottish employment over the year of 36,000 encompasses the entire UK-wide figure of 24,000.

He added: "We are building jobs and recovery in Scotland, and the UK Government must implement a Plan B if our recovery is not to be derailed."

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said the reduction in unemployment was welcome news, given the ongoing difficulties in the global economy.

He said: "Despite the difficult finances that this government has inherited, we are taking the decisions that create jobs and opportunities in the long-term.

"Our macroeconomic policy includes major measures to boost growth, with the creation of the most competitive business tax system in the developed world as we cut corporation tax progressively to the lowest rate in the G7."

He added: "In addition, the UK government has boosted tax relief for start-up companies and seen lending to businesses broadly on target through Project Merlin."

'No complacency'

Scottish Labour's finance spokesman Richard Baker commented: "We welcome the increase in employment and fall in unemployment.

"But with the number of Scots on the dole increasing to its highest level in 13 years and youth unemployment soaring to its highest rate in over a decade, there can be no complacency from the SNP government."

He added: "Too many of these statistics represent wasted talent and wasted opportunity in Scotland.

"Not since the dark days of the last Tory government has youth unemployment been so high. This demands an increased response from the SNP government."

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcomed the latest data.

Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "It is good news for Scotland that our unemployment levels are now back on a downward path and that the Scottish rate of unemployment is now significantly below the UK average.

"Despite the fact that the claimant count has been on an upward trend for four months now, the fact that the overall rate of employment is rising seems to indicate that many people who have lost their jobs may be getting back into employment relatively quickly."

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