The unemployment rate in Scotland has continued to drop, but is not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, official figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its labour market data on Tuesday, showing Scotland’s unemployment rate between July and September was 4.1%, a drop of 0.2 percentage points from the previous quarter.
However, the unemployment rate remained 0.3 percentage points above the level for December 2019 to February 2020.
The employment rate also rose compared with the previous quarter by 0.6 percentage points to 74.8%, but remains 0.6 points lower than before the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Latest figures from HMRC, however, show an increase in the number of people employed last month compared with the first month of the lockdown.
Some 2.39 million employees were recorded in Scotland in October by the tax agency, a 0.1% rise compared with February 2020.
Benefit claimants remained substantially higher than before the pandemic, with the number of people claiming Universal Credit for the principal reason of unemployment being 44,000 higher last month than in March last year.
However, this figure dropped by 2,100 from the previous month.
Employment minister Richard Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government continues to do all it can to support employees and employers and is investing more than £1 billion in 2021/22 to create jobs and ensure people have the skills needed to help seize Scotland’s potential and deliver a greater, greener, fairer and sustainable economy.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the figures show “encouraging signs” for Scotland, adding: “Our Plan for Jobs is working, helping people secure well-paid, skilled work.
“New figures today show that 100,000 young people have started new jobs through the Kickstart scheme, among them thousands of Scots who’ve been helped onto the first rung of their career ladders.
“The UK Government’s priority continues to be levelling up across the length and breadth of the UK.
“With a record £41 billion in Barnett-based funding for Scotland per year, we are supporting businesses to grow, communities to thrive and job opportunities to flourish in every part of the country.”
In September, the Job Retention Scheme was scrapped after supporting millions of people through the pandemic, paying a proportion of their wages to allow their continued employment.
The figures appear to show little impact of the end of the scheme, providing some “early reassurance”, Dr Stuart McIntyre of the Fraser of Allander Institute said.
“In particular that there has not been an increase in claims for unemployment related benefits in October,” he said.
“Similarly, other survey data suggest that the vast majority of those still furloughed when that support ended at the end of September did not lose their job.
“Our economic recovery from the pandemic is in its initial stages, but the early signs are that the labour market impacts may be more modest than originally feared.”
Dr McIntyre added: “However, there remain significant challenges within the broader economy, including supply chain problems and continuing public health restrictions, and so there is still a risk that this fragile economic recovery may stall.
“There is also a long way to go in our understanding of the enduring effects of the pandemic on the labour market – in particular on young people and those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.”
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