Scotland’s male unemployment rate reached a record low as the number of people in work jumped by 37,000 in the run-up to Christmas.
At the same time as employment in the UK grew to a record high, data from the Office for National Statistics showed there were 2,680,000 Scots in work in the period October to December 2019.
While this was up from the previous quarter, the total was 5,000 lower than the same time in 2018.
Scotland’s employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 was lower than that recorded across the UK – with 75% of the working age population in a job, compared to 76.5%.
The figures – published on the same day as the Scottish Government launched a new careers strategy – showed Scotland had a lower unemployment rate, with this at 3.5% north of the border and 3.8% for the UK as a whole.
For men, the unemployment rate was even lower at 3.3% – the lowest on record and below the 3.9% across the UK.
A total of 96,000 Scots were classed as being unemployed in the final three months of 2019, according to the data.
Business minister Jamie Hepburn said an increase in female employment was the reason for Scotland’s employment rate being “close to the highest on record”.
He said: “These results show that, through our labour market strategy, Scotland continues to see the benefits of a strong and inclusive labour market.
“Scotland’s employment rate rose over the quarter to 75.0% and remains close to the highest on record.
“This is mostly driven by a rise in the employment rate of women of 0.9 percentage points to 71.4%.
“Over the same period, the overall unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, close to the record low and 0.3 percentage points lower than the UK’s (3.8%).
“The unemployment rate for men fell to 3.3% – the lowest on record and lower than the UK’s (3.9%).”
The Scottish Government will “continue to make Scotland’s workplaces fairer through our work to tackle the gender pay gap, reduce the disability employment gap and demonstrate leadership in tackling race inequality in employment”, he pledged.
Mr Hepburn added: “Today we have published a new careers strategy for Scotland, which will help people access the help they need to get into work or change their career and fulfil their potential.”
But he stressed the impact Britain’s departure from the EU could have on jobs and the economy.
The minister said: “Of course, Brexit remains the biggest threat to jobs, businesses and our economy.
“That is why the Scottish Government has consistently been clear that the best option for the future well-being and prosperity of Scotland – and the UK as a whole – is to stay in the European Union.
“The latest Scottish Government State of the Economy report sets out that, even if a deal is reached, firms’ hiring intentions may remain weak this year and jobs growth and staff shortages in some sectors may worsen.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the Scottish Government needed a “viable industrial strategy” to help provide the “high-skill, high-pay jobs that the people of Scotland badly need”.
“Today’s labour market statistics are further evidence if any was needed that this SNP Government has no clear industrial strategy and is letting down the workers of Scotland,” he said.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It is good news that Scotland’s unemployment figures continue to fall and employment increases.
“However, there is still room for improvement as Scotland’s employment rate remains below the UK average.”
He added: “The UK Government is working hard to ensure Scotland and every part of the UK prospers.
“We are investing £1.4 billion in our city and growth deals programme across Scotland, which will create tens of thousands of jobs over the coming few years.”