Employment in Scotland has seen the largest increase for twelve years according to official statistics, published on the same day as figures show Scotland’s economy grew for the second quarter in a row, continuing to outperform the UK.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that employment rose by 39,000 in the three month period to December to February, the largest increase since May-July 2000.
Scotland’s headline employment rate, which refers to 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.
Over the three months December to February 2013 total unemployment fell by 11,000 or 0.5 percentage points to 7.3 per cent – making Scotland’s unemployment rate lower than the UK rate which rose by 0.2 percentage points to 7.9 per cent. It is the first time that unemployment has been below 200,000 since August to October 2009.
The Scottish youth labour market continued its strong performance of recent months with the youth unemployment rate now down 6.8 percentage points over the year to December to February. The Scottish youth unemployment rate of 16.1 per cent is lower than the UK rate of 20.6 per cent and the Scottish youth employment rate of 56.7 per cent is higher than the UK rate of 49.7 per cent.
Figures published today by the Scottish Government showed that the Scottish economy grew for the second successive quarter with growth of 0.5 per cent from October to December, a relatively strong GDP performance compared to the UK where the economy contracted by 0.3 per cent over the same period.
The growth in Scotland is partly due to a large increase in electricity and gas supply, which included strong growth in renewable energy output over the quarter.
Visiting Scottish Power’s Hamilton offices to announce a major jobs boost Finance Secretary John Swinney said:
“It is very welcome to see these positive trends in employment and in economic growth for Scotland.
“Today’s figures show the highest increase in employment in a single quarter for twelve years with an increase of 39,000 jobs and unemployment is now below the 200,000 mark for the first time in over three years.
“These figures also show Scotland’s economy growing faster than the UK’s at the end of 2012 with a second consecutive quarter of growth.
“Scotland now has a higher employment rate and lower unemployment rate than the UK, stronger economic growth and youth unemployment figures that continue to improve and out-perform the UK.
“We are committed to building sustainable economic growth for Scotland and we are adopting a specifically Scottish approach to this. We are maintaining the most competitive business environment anywhere in the UK and investing in our infrastructure.
“Today Scottish Power has announced its intention to create thousands of jobs in the West of Scotland and this is testament to our skills base and is welcome news for the area.
“We can build on these figures for the future but we can’t allow the UK Government’s economic policies to derail the positive developments we are seeing in Scotland. Just yesterday we saw the IMF cutting its combined 2013 and 2014 growth forecast for the UK more than for any other major advanced economy. Westminster has to take note of this and change its approach to the economy with greater capital investment to stimulate growth.
“It is therefore imperative that the Scottish economic recovery is not blown off course by the misguided policies of the UK Government.
“With the full fiscal and economic powers of independence the Scottish Government could do even more to strengthen our economy and create jobs.”
Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said:
“Today’s figures show yet again that Scotland has lower unemployment and higher employment amongst our young people compared to the UK.
“These figures are clear evidence that the action we are taking to support young people into employment, including the Modern Apprenticeship programme, is making a difference. Just last week we confirmed that our target to offer at least 25,000 new Modern Apprenticeship places each year has been met for a second year.
“Apprenticeships are just part of our action to help young people into employment. To date, we’ve invested £29 million in Community Jobs Scotland to create thousands of jobs for young people in the third sector. We are guaranteeing every young person aged 16 to 19 the offer of a place in education or training through Opportunities for All. Action will continue this year, including the roll-out of recruitment incentives across Scotland to enable small and medium sized businesses create new youth jobs.”
“Employers in Scotland who have taken on a Modern Apprentice or offered a young person a job through Community Jobs Scotland have demonstrated their commitment to make young people their business. They know it makes good business sense for them and Scotland’s economy, and I look forward to even more responding to this challenge during 2013.”