The coronavirus outbreak will have an impact on employment, the Scottish Government warned as the latest figures showed a rise of 31,000 in the number of people in work.
The employment total north of the border grew to 2,679,000, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.
But the figures cover the period from November 2019 to January 2020 – before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.
Business minister Jamie Hepburn said while the Scottish Government is trying to ensure “workers get as much support as possible”, Covid-19 will impact on the labour market.
He spoke after ONS data revealed Scotland’s employment rate had risen to 74.9%.
This is lower than the rate for the UK as a whole, which was 76.5% in November 2019 to January 2020.
The number of Scots who were unemployed fell by 4,000 over the quarter to stand at 96,000.
That gave Scotland a jobless rate of 3.5% – lower than than the 3.9% recorded for the UK as a whole.
Mr Hepburn said: “Scotland’s employment rate rose over the quarter to 74.9% and remains close to the highest on record.
“The unemployment rate fell over the quarter to 3.5%, also close to the record low, and 0.4 percentage points lower than the UK’s (3.9%).”
But he warned: “The Covid-19 outbreak is an emerging situation for the whole country and will impact on our labour market.
“The Scottish Government is focused on ensuring workers get as much support as possible from employers and Government during this uncertain period.”
People have now been told to cut social contact by, for example, stopping going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas during the outbreak, leading to fears of widespread job losses in sectors such as the hospitality industry.
Following last week’s UK Budget, the Scottish Government has brought in measures to try to help businesses across the country.
Mr Hepburn said: “This includes a 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 and an £80 million fund to provide grants to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of Covid-19.”
He added: “Businesses receiving support are being encouraged to operate with fair work principles including supporting staff to self-isolate when they need to and if they have caring responsibilities.
“Ensuring staff who are unwell don’t feel compelled to come into work benefits businesses by protecting the wider workforce.
“We continue to work closely with our partners to identify what further support is needed.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It is encouraging that the Scottish labour market has started the year in a strong position but we are in challenging times and people are understandably concerned.
“That’s why the UK and Scottish Governments are working closely together to delay the spread of Covid-19 and alleviate pressure on our public services, people and businesses.
“This week, the Chancellor announced that the Scottish Government will receive £780 million to tackle coronavirus, adding to the support people across the country will receive through UK-wide measures including extending Statutory Sick Pay.
“This, in addition to the £1.9 billion spending increase for the Scottish Government next year, is very welcome news.
“As the situation develops, the UK Government will make sure that the devolved administrations have the funding they need.”