By a Newsnet Reporter
Scotland’s employment rate continues to outperform the rest of the UK despite new figures showing the unemployed total north of the border increased by 7000 in the last quarter.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) means that the Scottish jobless rate has now increased by 0.3% to 7.9%, however this is still better than the rest of the UK where the unemployment rate increased by a third more (0.4%) and now stands at 8.1%.
The ONS figures also show that whilst the claimant count in Scotland fell by 200 in September, it rose by 17,500 in the rest of the UK.
The longer term trends also show Scotland performing better. Over the last twelve months, Scottish employment has risen by 20,000, compared to a fall of 47,000 across the UK. Today’s official figures represent the 11th consecutive labour market statistics release where the Scottish employment rate has been better than the UK rate.
Unemployment trends are similar with unemployment levels in Scotland over the twelve months to June-August 2011, falling by 17,000, a drop in the unemployment rate of 0.7%.
In contrast, UK unemployment levels over the same period have increased by 113,000, a rise in the unemployment rate of 0.3%. For the UK as a whole, unemployment levels are now at their highest since 1994.
Youth unemployment for the UK has now risen to 991,000. However there appeared to be no comparable data released for Scotland in today’s ONS figures.
Responding to today’s report, First Minister Alex Salmond repeated his calls for the UK coalition to adopt a ‘Plan MacB’ and for Scotland to be given more economic powers.
Mr Salmond said: “Scottish unemployment is down by 25,000 from its peak during the recession, but joblessness across the UK is now at its highest level since 1994.
“A Westminster ‘Plan MacB’ must deliver real action in the areas where Scottish Government policy is making a difference: increased capital expenditure, improved access to finance for medium and small sized businesses, as well as the introduction of measures to boost consumer confidence and economic security.
“With the levers we currently control in Scotland, the Government and our enterprise agencies are doing everything within our powers to secure new investment and employment – and recent jobs announcements by Aker, Avaloq, Dell, Gamesa, Amazon and Doosan Power Systems are testament to the quality workforce, skills and infrastructure we have in Scotland.
“And with major concerns over youth unemployment, the record 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship places this year, and the ‘Opportunities for All’ programme – guaranteeing a training or learning place for all 16-19 year-olds – will help give our young folk the life chances they deserve.”
The First Minister highlighted the uncertainty over the Carbon Capture project at Longannet as evidence that Scotland needs to control her own economic levers. He also attacked the UK government’s electricity market reform plans describing them as “clearly designed to support a new generation of nuclear power stations south of the Border” at the expense of Scotland’s renewable energy sector.
Mr Salmond added: “The Scottish Government believes that full financial powers and independence best serves Scotland’s prosperity, growth and jobs. And as the uncertainty at Longannet may well be demonstrating, only with access to all the levers of economic growth can we maximise Scotland’s potential to secure new investment and jobs.”
Labour’s finance spokesman Richard Baker said the figures were “deeply concerning”.
He said: “The Scottish economy desperately needs growth and we need a plan from John Swinney that actually gets results.
“Last month the Scottish government sought to take credit for a small fall in unemployment while it increased in the rest of the UK. Today unemployment is up in Scotland too so the Scottish Government must not evade responsibility and should respond with a change of course.”