Sharp fall in Scottish jobless total

The unemployment rate in Scotland now stands at 6.4%

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Unemployment in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level for almost five years following a sharp drop towards the end of last year, according to official figures.

The number of jobless fell by 25,000 between September and November and now stands at 176,000.

The unemployment rate fell by 0.9% over the quarter to 6.4% - its lowest level since January-March 2009.

The latest figures showed an average rate of 7.1% for the whole of the UK.

The data follows official estimates released last week which indicated that the Scottish economy grew by 0.7% in the third quarter of last year.

The latest Office for National Statistics figures showed employment in Scotland increased by 10,000 over the three months to November, to stand at 2,559,000.

Over the past year, the number of employed women has risen by 62,000 - the largest annual increase on record.

However, Scotland's overall economic inactivity rate rose by 0.8%.

The number of people claiming Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA), fell by 1,900 from November to 113,800 in December - down by 24,100 on December 2012.

'Extremely encouraging'

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "It is extremely encouraging to see unemployment in Scotland at its lowest level in nearly five years and employment increasing by 90,000 over the past year.

"The number of people in work in Scotland is close to the record highs seen before the recession and there has been a big fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

"Every new job created and every person getting back into work is to be welcomed."

He added: "Today's figures reflect how well Scotland is doing as part of the UK."

'More positive news'

Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "Today's labour market figures provide more positive news for the Scottish economy, with the number of people in employment in Scotland continuing to increase, following on from last week's strong GDP results.

"Scotland has a higher employment rate and lower unemployment rate than England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

"Consistent increases in employment levels show that the policies of the Scottish government to create jobs and boost the economy are making progress."

He added: "With the limited powers over the economy that we have at our disposal, Scotland's economic health is improving but without the full powers of independence we cannot secure the greater levels of growth and employment that we need."

'Welcome boost'

Scottish Labour's finance spokesman Iain Gray said the latest figures were a welcome boost but the Scottish government needed to commit to further action.

He added: "We also need to be confident that these additional jobs are sustainable and will lead to increased consumer spending.

"However in amongst the figures there is likely to be a large proportion of jobs that are seasonal, temporary or part-time and we cannot depend on this as a long-term solution.

"We need to look behind the headlines and make sure the opportunities that are available are full-time and secure and give people the scope to plan for their future and put our economy back to pre-recession levels."

Scottish Chambers of Commerce said Scottish businesses were gaining in confidence and creating new job opportunities.

Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "There is an increasing weight of evidence that the Scottish economy is at last entering a period of sustained growth and that GDP levels might soon return to their pre-recessionary mark.

"Rising levels of employment and falling unemployment are further indicators that businesses are sufficiently confident of future prospects that they feel secure in investing in new staff."

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