Scots unemployment falls to 4.2% with UK at 4.9%

Scotland’s unemployment rate decreased over the August-October quarter to 4.2%, below the UK rate of 4.9%, the Scottish Government said.

The proportion of people aged 16-64 in work — the employment rate — increased over the quarter to 74.8%, compared to the UK rate of 75.2%.

The economic inactivity rate — the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work — decreased over the quarter to 21.8%, compared to the UK rate of 20.8%.

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “These figures still do not reflect the full impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on employment as the Job Retention Scheme has played an important role in supporting employers and employees.

“We are also facing huge economic uncertainty as a result of Brexit and the UK government’s decision to leave the transition period on 31 December in the middle of a pandemic and a recession.”

Leading Scottish think tank Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) said: “While some will look at the latest data and reach a conclusion about the relative effect of the pandemic on the Scottish economy compared to that of other parts of UK, we need to be cautious about doing so at the moment …

“One thing to make clear at the outset is that with furlough support continuing, we’ve yet to see the inevitable shakeout in the labour market that we know is coming.

“Rather than finding themselves unemployed, or at risk of unemployment, many people remain on furlough; at the end of September over 180,000 people in Scotland were still on furlough …

“It is also important to note that despite a fall in the headline measure of unemployment, the claimant count continued to rise slightly in the latest data, with the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits up well over 80% since this time last year, with over 214,000 people currently in this situation in Scotland …

“It will take some time for us to reach definitive conclusions about how the pandemic has shaped and reshaped our economy and labour market, in the meantime all attention should be on doing our best to mitigate the impacts for those most at risk in our economy.”