Scottish unemployment total rises again

New figures show unemployment in Scotland rose and retail sales fell in the three months to the end of September

Unemployment in Scotland has risen for the third time in a row, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded a rise of 4,000, bringing the total for the period between July and September to 218,000.

The Scottish unemployment rate is now 8.1%, which is above the UK-wide average of 7.8%.

Employment in Scotland also fell by 27,000 over the three months to stand at 2,472,000.

The number of people claiming jobseekers' allowance rose by 100 from September to 140,700 in October.

Unemployed people are the human face of the monthly job figures, and understandably, the media cameras focus on them.

But it's the statistics on the other side of the ledger that are at least as significant.

While unemployment is up by 4,000 in Scotland and falling across the rest of the UK, the direction of travel among those in work is a warning sign about the capacity of the economy to create jobs.

That number was down by 27,000 in Scotland between July and September. Across the rest of the UK, it was up by nearly 100,000. Scotland's employment rate is now below that of the UK.

There were special factors during July, August and September, including the number of students in the job market.

And there was the one-off effect of the Olympics and Paralympics. While creating jobs in London, the impact is likely to have been weaker the further you were from the Olympic Village.

So that might explain why Scotland's close alignment to the UK average through much of this downturn has become an unwelcome gap.

It's worth watching closely to see if it becomes a post-Olympics trend.

In the UK as a whole, unemployment fell by 49,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to September, taking the jobless rate down to 7.8% from 7.9%.

First Minister Alex Salmond said it was time UK Chancellor George Osborne faced the reality that the UK's economy was "flat-lining" as a result of his decisions.

He said: "It would be a tragedy for Scotland, and for the UK as a whole, if the positive impact of the Olympics is used to justify continued inaction by the UK government."

Scotland Office minister David Mundell said: "It is a cause for obvious concern that the latest Scottish figures show another increase in unemployment while it is falling in the rest of the UK.

"The fact the Scottish unemployment rate is also higher than the rest of the country shows why Scotland's two governments need to work together for the benefit of Scotland."

Scottish Labour called on the first minister to "take responsibility" for the figures.

Finance spokesman Ken Macintosh said: "He can't keep hiding behind this bungling Tory government, particularly now that Scottish unemployment is continuing to increase while the rest of the UK manages a small recovery.

"This is the third month in a row and Alex Salmond is running out of excuses. George Osborne blames it on snow and the royal wedding, Alex Salmond on the Olympics - they are two peas in a pod."

'Shared responsibility'

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the Scottish and UK governments "must share responsibility for the continually disappointing unemployment figures" in Scotland.

Chef executive Liz Cameron said: "We look to the chancellor of the exchequer to address business growth and job creation as his top priority in his forthcoming autumn statement.

"Increasing employment will only come from business growth, so the UK government must both boost capital investment and incentivise business lending, to enable firms across the UK to create more jobs.

"The Scottish government must also use the levers it has at its disposal to stimulate business growth.

"We have been calling on the Scottish government to impose a freeze on business rates for 2013/14, allowing businesses to invest the £163m this would save in their businesses, creating the demand for jobs that is needed to address the continuing growth in unemployment in Scotland," she added.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland argued that the figures underlined the need to "harness the job creation potential of our smallest businesses".

The Scottish Trades Union Congress said the figures brought "yet more miserable news for Scotland".

General Secretary Grahame Smith added: "The small rise in unemployment is perhaps not as worrying as the very significant fall in employment."

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