By Martin Kelly
Youth unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 28,000 over the last year, according to the latest figures released today by the Office of National Statistics.
The fall of 5.9 per cent, amongst people aged 16-24, represents the biggest single drop since records began in 2006 and means the rate is at its lowest since November to January 2011.
Today’s figures also showed that unemployment in Scotland fell by 13,000 over the period from October to December 2012 – and made up the bulk of the total UK figure which was 14,000.
The youth unemployment rate in Scotland is now less than that of the UK, 18.4 per cent compared to 20.6 per cent. The youth employment rate in Scotland is also better than the UK, 54.9 per cent compared to 51.6 per cent.
Over the three month period the headline unemployment rate amongst adults in Scotland fell by 0.4 percentage points to 7.7 per cent, slightly better than the UK rate of 7.8 per cent.
There was further good news for Scotland’s headline employment rate which rose by 0.1 percentage points over the three month period to 70.7 per cent.
Welcoming the new figures, Finance Secretary John Swinney said:
“This is the third set of monthly unemployment figures in a row that have shown a fall. What’s more, the fall in youth unemployment is particularly encouraging.
“Scotland has lower youth unemployment, higher youth employment and lower youth inactivity than the UK. This month’s release sees the largest annual drop in the youth unemployment rate since the data series began in 2006.
“Unemployment fell by 14,000 across the UK as a whole with Scotland accounting for 13,000 of this net fall.
Mr Swinney warned against complacency and ackowledged that there were still too many people looking for work. The Finance Secretary said that the Scottish Government would continue to pursue policies that he said would maintain a competitive and attractive business environment.
He added: “The budget passed last month includes a tax relief package for business worth over £540m this year and bring forward a further £385 million package of economic stimulus.
“But with the full economic and fiscal powers of independence the Scottish Government could do even more to strengthen our economy and create jobs.”
Commenting on the figures for young people, Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said:
“Today’s figures are the clearest demonstration yet that the Scottish Government’s action on youth employment is helping to support more young people into jobs.
“It is fantastic that we have achieved an historic high in the number of school leavers going into work, education or training.
“A record 89.9 per cent of our young people are rightly securing opportunities after school. However one young person not in training or employment is one too many.
The Minister added: “This year we will build on our efforts – which have included a guarantee of a place in education or training for every 16-19 year old, funding 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships each year and £8.5 million to create 1,400 jobs in the third sector – by launching an Employer Recruitment Incentive.
“This will offer financial support to small companies willing to give young people a job and is backed by £15 million of Scottish Government funding and by £10 million European Structural funding.”
Responding to the employment figures, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary Ken Macintosh MSP, said:
“Whilst the fall in unemployment is welcome, it disguises the very serious and far more worrying upward trend in those withdrawing from the labour market altogether in Scotland.
“Employment is increasing across the UK as a whole, but here in Scotland the number of people in work is falling. 11,000 fewer people are working now than three months ago. Women in Scotland are being particular badly affected with tens of thousands no longer even looking for work.
“The Scottish Government had an opportunity to present a budget with measures aimed at getting people back into work, but instead we are seeing a further weakening of the jobs market.
“Taken together with the half a billion pounds they’ve spent laying people off, this is a government that has missed opportunity after opportunity to improve the employment prospects of people across Scotland”
Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Chief executive Liz Cameron said: “It is good news that unemployment in Scotland has continued its downward trend, and it is particularly important to note that youth employment fell by 28,000 over the course of last year.
“This has undoubtedly been assisted by the focus on youth employment that has been evident on the part of the Scottish government in 2012, and Chambers of Commerce across Scotland have also sprung into action to help tackle high levels of youth unemployment.”
BBC Scotland’s Business and Economy Editor Douglas Fraser was more pessimistic and said the job creation figures showing England creating 584,000 jobs to only 2000 in Scotland suggested that Scotland, “did badly at creating new jobs”.
“The figures suggest England is seeing jobs created on an astonishing scale, given the state of the economy, but that’s not being matched in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.” the BBC man said.
Writing on his blog, Mr Fraser said: “The latest unemployment figures look good. If you’re Spanish or Greek, they look fantastic. The latest employment figures don’t. Not for Scotland anyway.”
Echoing the views of Scottish Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary Ken Macintosh, Mr Fraser added: “[Scotland’s] positive glow around unemployment is because the size of the labour market is falling.
“The number of people who are economically inactive fell by nearly 300,000 across the UK, yet in Scotland, it rose by 27,000.”