Employment levels in Scotland are at their highest since records began with 2,575,000 people over 16 now employed, according to labour market figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The employment level is now 13,000 above its pre-recession peak of 2,562,000 in 2008. According to the latest statistics, 2.575m people over 16 – 13,000 more than the previous record pre-recession – are now in employment.
The figure marks an historic high – higher than the employment rate on the date of the first meeting of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 (2.29m); the rate at the end of the Holyrood Lib-Lab coalition government in 2007 (2.558m) and the date on which the Edinburgh Agreement was signed in October 2012 (2.468m).
The ONS data also revealed that female employment has increased by 46,000 over the year – and the female employment rate is now 1.8 per cent higher than the UK figure.
The number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance fell by 2,400 over the month to March – the 17th monthly fall in a row.
The figures also show Scotland continuing to outperform the UK across all headline labour market indicators with a lower unemployment rate, higher employment rate and lower economic inactivity rate.
Although the Scottish unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points over the quarter, over the year it fell by 0.8 percentage points and now stands at 6.5 per cent compared to 6.9 per cent in the UK as a whole.
National Statistics also published today by the Scottish Government showed Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.2 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2013 and increased by 1.6 per cent during 2013, the fastest annual growth since 2007.
The latest labour market figures were welcomed by the First Minister Alex Salmond during a visit to Stornoway harbour, to mark the start of work supported by Scottish Government investment of £9.6 million to enhance infrastructure in preparation for the September arrival of a new £42 million ferry on the Stornoway-Ullapool route.
He said: “Today’s historic jobs figures show the Scottish Government’s policy of investing in infrastructure to boost the economy is making significant progress with employment levels at a record high. To put it in perspective, there are 285,000 more people in employment today than there were when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999.
“Scotland is outperforming the UK across employment, unemployment and inactivity rates which goes to show even with the limited powers over the economy at our disposal we are improving our country’s economic health.
“These impressive figures come on the day we mark the start of work, supported by a Scottish Government contribution of £9.6 million, to boost Stornoway harbour’s infrastructure and help to improve access to Scotland’s islands, employing around 25 people in an important local labour market.
“Such projects underline the strength of Scotland’s economy.”
The First Minister added: “Everyone aged between 16 and 19 is guaranteed an offer of a place in training or education through Opportunities for All and just this week we revealed we will create thousands of additional Modern Apprenticeship places, bringing our total target for MA’s to 30,000 every year by 2020 – double the level we inherited in 2007.
“This commitment to equipping our young people with the skills that they need will be further strengthened with the appointment of Angela Constance as Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Female Employment.”
Today’s GDP figures highlighted that Scotland’s GDP posted positive growth in each quarter during 2013, for the first calendar year since the beginning of 2008, and has now experienced seven consecutive quarters of economic growth.
Over the quarter, the services sector grew by 0.6 per cent and output in the sector surpassed its 2007 peak. The production sector contracted by 0.7 per cent and construction output declined by 1.0 per cent.
The quarter four results for Scotland include the impact of the temporary shutdown at the Grangemouth industrial complex. This affected the Refined Petroleum, Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Products series which contracted by 10.8 per cent over the quarter and reduced Scottish headline growth by 0.2 percentage points. Indirect effects on supply chain industries mean the overall effect is likely to have been even larger still.
Commenting on the GDP figures, the First Minister said:
“These GDP figures coupled with our labour market figures show the underlying strength in the Scottish economic recovery. In spite of some short term volatility it is clear that Scotland’s economy is continuing to make headway, but there is no room for complacency.
“Last year’s temporary shutdown at Grangemouth had a substantial effect on our economy, but even with that there have been strong signs of recovery and 2013 saw the fastest annual growth since 2007. We expect to see a further increase on these figures in the first quarter of 2014 figures which are due in July.
“The GDP and labour market statistics follow the results of Monday’s Bank of Scotland PMI report which recorded rises in output and new business in Scotland in March and revealed the private sector activity expanded for the 18th consecutive month.
“Both the labour market figures and GDP statistics paint a picture of recovery in Scotland. However with the full fiscal and economic powers of independence, the Scottish Government could do so much more to strengthen our economy and create more jobs.”
Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Scottish businesses are displaying a spirit of optimism as business confidence is increasing, and inflation falling. The release of these figures shows that the Scottish unemployment rate is at 6.5%, below the average of the whole of the UK of 6.9%.
“It is encouraging to see more women in Scotland moving into work, enabling businesses to take advantage of a wide pool of skills and expertise.
“However, these figures act as a reminder that a level of fragility remains in the employment market as Scottish unemployment rose by 3,000 (0.1%).
“A focused business-led effort, supported by policy makers is required to address the skills shortages that our businesses are reporting. This will enable people in Scotland to develop the skills required to succeed in the labour market.”