Scotland’s employment rate has fallen slightly, down to just over 74%.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that from November 2020 to January 2021, employment rates dropped to 74.3% – down 0.6% compared with the previous quarter (August to October 2020).
This has brought Scotland’s employment below the UK rate of 75%.
The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimated that from November 2020 to January 2021, Scotland’s unemployment rate decreased slightly over the quarter by 0.1%, to 4.1%.
Scotland’s unemployment rate was below the UK rate of 5.0%.
Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn, said: “For November to January 2021, Scotland’s employment rate estimate fell over the quarter to 74.3% and the unemployment rate estimate fell slightly over the quarter to 4.1%.
“Separate HMRC early estimates for February 2021, also published this morning, show there were 2,331,000 pay-rolled employees in Scotland, 65,000 lower than a year ago.
“These figures reflect some of the challenges faced in Scotland’s labour market to date, but they do not reflect the full impact of coronavirus or the outlook for employment as the Job Retention Scheme continues to help support jobs.
“It is crucial the UK Government keep this scheme in place for as long as it is needed.”
Dr Stuart McIntyre, Head of Research at the Fraser of Allander Institute, said: “The Scottish labour market remains in a state of suspended animation – certainly in comparison to the scale of the economic shock represented by the pandemic – with little change in the headline measures of employment and unemployment over the year to the end of February.
“A key reason for this is the furlough support scheme remaining in place; at the end of January over 360,000 jobs remained on furlough in Scotland.
“There is some evidence that employment is down by more than what is being suggested by headline data. Data from HMRC on payroll employment put the number of jobs in Scotland down nearly 65,000 compared to the same period last year, and this despite the furlough scheme remaining in place.
“No one should misunderstand the scale of the economic challenge that we face.
“Rapid progress in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine may mean that we are nearing the final phase of the public health campaign, but be in no doubt that we are only approaching the opening phase of the economic recovery.”
SNP shadow chancellor, Alison Thewliss, said: “Far too many people have been left behind by the Tory government throughout the pandemic, with millions excluded from Covid-19 financial support.
“The Chancellor must urgently plug the gaps in support, reverse damaging Tory austerity cuts, and deliver a major fiscal stimulus of at least £98 billion to boost the economy and protect jobs.
“Tory plans to impose a public sector pay freeze, cut Universal Credit, and raise taxes for millions of workers will slash household incomes and threaten Scotland’s recovery.
“It is clear that Scotland faces a choice of two futures: the long-term damage of Tory cuts and Brexit under the broken Westminster system, or the opportunity to secure our place in Europe and a strong, fair and green recovery as an independent country, in a post-pandemic referendum.”
UK Minister for Employment, Mims Davies, said: “Today’s figures highlight the challenges facing us on our road to recovery, but there is reason for optimism with more workers on payrolls and over half a million vacancies out there.
“The UK Government’s Plan for Jobs is delivering for people of all ages right across Scotland and the rest of country – and with the recruitment of over 800 Work Coaches and the launch of our £22m Job-Entry Targeted Support, we’re helping even more Scots back into work as we push to build back better.”