Scotland's unemployment rate falls slightly

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The unemployment rate in Scotland has fallen slightly over the latest quarter and remains below the UK rate, figures show.

Office for National Statistics figures show the rate decreased from 4.5% to 4.2% between August and October. It compares with a UK-wide rate of 4.9%.

Scotland's employment rate estimate rose to 74.8% over the same period.

The Scottish government said the figures still did not reflect the full impact of Covid-19 on employment.

Across the whole of the UK, redundancies rose to a record high 370,000 in the three months to October, the ONS said in its December labour market review.

Firms laid off more staff in anticipation of the end of the furlough scheme, which was originally supposed to finish in October.

However, the wage support programme has since been extended until March.

BBC Scotland's business and economy editor, Douglas Fraser, said Scotland saw the biggest drop in unemployment of any nation of the UK or English region over the three month, but he said the furlough scheme was "masking" the extent of the number of people out of work.

"It looks like quite significant shifts in Scotland in the right direction - but there's little expectation that will last given the restrictions on business since October," he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme.

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: "These figures still do not reflect the full impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on employment as the Job Retention Scheme has played an important role in supporting employers and employees.

"We are also facing huge economic uncertainty as a result of Brexit and the UK government's decision to leave the transition period on 31 December in the middle of a pandemic and a recession."

Supporting employers

The minister added that the Scottish government would continue to support employers by making grants available to businesses affected by Covid-19.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: "The UK government continues to respond, taking unprecedented action to support jobs with the extension of the furlough and self-employed schemes, providing loans to Scottish businesses and supporting our hospitality and tourism sectors.

"For those looking for work, we are investing billions as part of our Plan for Jobs including recruitment of work coaches, expansion of sector training schemes and £2bn Kickstart scheme for young people."