Scotland business

Scottish unemployment hits lowest rate since recession

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Scotland's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest rate since the recession, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobless total fell by 17,000, or 0.6%, over the three months to April to stand at 109,000.

The Scottish unemployment rate now stands at 4%, which equals the figure recorded between March and May in 2008.

The UK rate is 4.6%, with a total of 1.53 million unemployed people recorded in the latest quarter.

Meanwhile, employment in Scotland rose by 14,000 over the same period to stand at 74.1%.

But the ONS also reported a fall in UK average earnings, which grew by 2.1% in the year to April - down by 0.2% on the previous month.

The fall was greater when measured over a three-month period, confirming that wages are falling behind the 2.9% inflation rate.

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Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn said: "Scotland's unemployment rate is at its lowest rate since the recession and matches the lowest on record for Scotland since the series began.

"With the employment rate rising, it's clear this is hugely positive news for our economy and the jobs market."

'Challenges remain'

The UK government's Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: "Today's figures show that Scotland's labour market continues to improve and I am pleased that the unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest rate on record.

"But a number of significant challenges remain and I want to see Scotland's economic performance improve, catching up with the rest of the UK.

"This is why it is more important than ever that Scotland's two governments work together to help ensure Scotland's prosperity."

Dr Stuart McIntyre, from the Fraser of Allander economic research institute, said: "At a time when the Scottish economy is struggling, at first glance the labour market appears to be holding up rather well.

"However, almost all of the growth in employment over the year to the latest quarter is accounted for by growth in self-employment rather than in traditional employee jobs.

"Not nearly enough is known about the nature and composition of this recent growth in self-employment to judge whether this is a positive development."

'Areas of concern'

Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcomed the figures but said there were still "some areas of concern", with average earnings continuing to lag behind inflation.

Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "Low productivity rates dictate that earnings growth may be unlikely to improve significantly over the short term and, with inflation having risen by more than expectations, the pressures on consumer demand, business margins and future business investment continue."

She added: "Scotland has also experienced a significant rise in the number of people dropping out of the labour market altogether over the past year.

"Coupled with continued reports of hard to fill vacancies amongst Scottish businesses, this underlines the need for government to increase investment in training opportunities, not only for young people but also for older workers, to enable people to upskill and reskill and get back into the workforce."

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