Scotland business

Scottish unemployment rises by 5,000

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Scotland's jobless total rose by 5,000 in Scotland between November and January to stand at 118,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The unemployment rate is now the same as the UK as a whole at 4.3%.

The number of adult Scots under 65 in work fell by 7,000, to 2,549,000. The employment rate stands at 74.8%.

The UK saw employment increase by 168,000 in the quarter to January to 32.2 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Despite the increase, there was a rise of 24,000 in UK unemployment, to 1.45 million, following a similar jump in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, wages grew by 2.6% in the three months to January while the rate of unemployment fell.

The Office for National Statistics said that earnings increased compared with a 2.5% rise in the previous period.

It adds to evidence that the squeeze on household income may be coming to an end after inflation fell to 2.7% in February.

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Reacting to the figures, Scotland's Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn said that while there had been a "slight decrease" in employment over the quarter, there were now 80,000 more people in jobs compared with the pre-recession peak.

He said: "Once more, we continue to outperform the UK on employment and unemployment rates for young people and women.

"Our support for young people includes a commitment to train at least 28,000 new apprentices next year, including opportunities at degree level, and 5,000 Foundation Apprenticeships in the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence, by 2020."

The UK government's Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: "It is encouraging that Scotland's unemployment rate has fallen over the year.

"However, the most recent quarterly snapshot shows an increase of people in Scotland out of work and I urge the Scottish government to use its considerable powers to strengthen the economy and help create the right conditions for sustained long term employment."

Scottish Labour's economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the labour market market figures underlined "the sense of complacency" from the SNP government on the economy.

She added: "Ministers continue to claim that the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

"Instead we are seeing rising unemployment and for too many people who are in work, that work is insecure - temporary, zero-hours contracts, paying less than the living wage."

'Wrong direction'

The Federation of Small Businesses said the figures showed that "Scotland's headline jobs metrics are both moving in the wrong direction".

Scottish policy convener Andy Willox said: "Getting local economies growing to reverse this trend must be the country's decision-makers' top priority.

"In the Spring Statement, the chancellor committed to tackling the scourge of late payment, after the Carillion scandal brought this issue into sharp focus.

"With thousands of Scottish firms going under every year due to bad debts and late payments, this work is of the utmost importance.

"North of the border, the Scottish government could do worse than using our public sector's enormous spending power to kick start local economies."

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