Scottish unemployment rate continues to fall

Job centre plus sign The jobless rate now stands at 8.2% - the same as the average for the UK as a whole

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Unemployment in Scotland has fallen for the third month in a row, according to official figures.

The number of people out of work fell by 14,000 between February and April to stand at 220,000.

The unemployment rate is now 8.2%, which is equal to the average for the whole of the UK.

Scotland's claimant count increased by 400 between April and May to reach a total of 142,600 - 2,500 more than this time last year.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also showed employment in Scotland rose by 18,000 over the three months to April.

The number of people working in Scotland now stands at 2,481,000.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said any rise in employment in Scotland was to be welcomed.

"These figures show the third consecutive month of reporting an increase in those finding work," he said.

"That is both good news for those getting into paid work and for our economy.

For several months, the official job figures for Scotland haven't matched up with other evidence that the UK economy dipped back into recession during winter.

And given that the public sector has been shedding jobs at a rapid rate - 28,000 in Scotland during 2011 - there are consistent signs that the private sector is proving resilient at creating jobs.

It's not proving so good at creating them for women, however, as they are harder hit by the public sector contraction.

Not all of the new recruits are part-time, which has been a concern in the past two years, particularly as many people are taking part-time jobs when they want or need a full-time one.

The most recent UK figures show a roughly equal growth in part- and full-time employment.

So where are these jobs coming from?

The energy sector is one explanation. And there's news out today that foreign investment in Scotland is holding up well, in difficult circumstances.

"The Scottish labour market is showing signs of resilience but there is no room for complacency as we work towards securing growth and creating further jobs."

Finance Secretary John Swinney said there were "positive indications" in the Scottish economy, but an expansion of capital investment by the UK government was needed to boost job creation.

He added: "We submitted a list of over 30 shovel-ready projects to the prime minister in March, and if these projects could go ahead now they would provide a vital boost to jobs and economic activity in Scotland.

"This has to be addressed as a matter of urgency - it's time for the Westminster government to stop dragging its heels, and deliver the funding so that work on these projects can get underway and benefit communities across Scotland."

Scottish Labour welcomed the improvement in the jobless figures but warned they painted "a mixed picture".

Finance spokesman Ken Macintosh said: "Unemployment in Scotland is still up on a year ago and these figures also show that unemployment for those aged 25-49, who make up the core segment of the labour market, has actually gone up while long-term unemployment is at an equally unacceptable level as it is in the rest of the UK."

'Working hard'

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said it was clear from the figures that Scotland's private sector was working hard to create jobs, even against the threat of a double-dip recession.

Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "What Scottish business needs now is a fresh injection of confidence to take them on a path towards growth that will bring Scotland's economy back to prosperity.

"This could in part be provided by a recognition by the UK government that it needs to expand its programme of infrastructure investment, which would in turn result in a capital boost to the Scottish government, allowing it to accelerate the programme of work outlined in its Infrastructure Investment Plan."

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) also welcomed the latest fall in unemployment.

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It has long been said that Scotland's collective nature has been partly shaped by our relative reliance on public sector employment.”

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General Secretary Grahame Smith said: "The challenge will be to sustain this modest improvement in the labour market through the headwinds of the coalition's spending cuts and the uncertainty created by ongoing crisis in the eurozone."

Meanwhile, separate figures released by Scotland's chief statistician have shown a 4.5% year-on-year fall in the number of people employed in the public sector.

In the first quarter of 2012, a total of 584,800 people were employed in the sector - a fall of 27,600 on the same period last year.

Public sector jobs currently account for 23.8% of overall employment in Scotland, down from 24.8% in the first quarter of last year.

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