By Russell Bruce
The first thing that struck me about the latest welcome figures in the growth of employment in Scotland was how that seemed to compare rather well with the recent disappointing figures for the US.
In the 3 months December to February 39,000 jobs were created in Scotland. The latest US Labour market statistics showed jobs growth of 88,000 in March. Now that is not comparing like with like, one month against three, and March for the US and December to February for Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures.
But this set me thinking because of the significant population difference between Scotland and the US.
The latest figures for the US did not go down well with the market and the dollar fell half a cent against the Euro on the announcement.
Over the last 12 months employment in the US has grown at an average of 168,000 a month. So three month’s growth would average 504,000, which is a lot more than 39,000 for Scotland so we need some population size context.
The US population is 313,914,040 and Scotland’s 5,295,400. Or to put it another way the US population is close to 60 times the size of Scotland’s.
The easiest way to make the comparison is to calculate the rate of increase for each, per 1000 of population. The jobs growth over three months in the US works out at .0016 per 1000 of population. The jobs growth for Scotland works out at .0074 per 1000 of population.
So in comparative terms the Scottish employment growth rate is 4.6 times the US growth rate.
In the last quarter of 2012, GDP grew by 0.5% in Scotland compared to a 0.3% contraction in the UK making for a performance difference of 0.8% for Scotland.
During 2012 the US economy experienced rather better growth than European countries, but only achieved 0.4% growth in GDP in the last quarter.
This means that not only did GDP growth in Scotland contrast with contraction in the UK economy, but Scottish GDP growth was marginally ahead of US growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Scotland’s headline employment rate, the population aged 16 to 64, rose by 1.0 percentage points to 71.7 per cent and is now higher than the UK rate of 71.4 per cent. The US labour force participation rate at 63.3% is the lowest since 1979.
With youth unemployment in Scotland now at 16.1% compared to 20.6% for the UK, real progress is being made on a problem affecting most western countries.
Of particular importance is the difference for those in higher education
The higher education participation rate is consistently higher in Scotland compared to England. The English rate is provisionally at 46.5 per cent for 2010-11 compared with 55.6 per cent in Scotland.
This 9% advantage means we are equipping our future workforce with the skills and qualifications that will build on our ability to attract investment, giving us a significant competitive advantage over the UK as a whole.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but 39,000 is a fair start. As usual provisional figures need to be treated with some reserve, but the evidential trend in Scotland’s positive economic performance is gaining traction.
Sources ONS, US Labour Market Statistics, Trading Economics