SCOTLAND’s employment rate fell in the last quarter, below the level of the UK as a whole, according to official estimates.
The Office for National Statistics said the proportion of 16-64 year olds working north of the border fell from 74.9% to 74.1% between October and December.
At the same time, the employment rate in the UK rose from 74.6 to 75.5%.
The Scottish government said it was firmly focused on the economy, but the Tories said the decline in the employment rate, particularly compared to the rise in the UK, was “extremely worrying”.
Scotland’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1%, while that of the United Kingdom fell by 0.2 percentage points to return to the same level.
There was also some striking new data on wages, with HMRC PAYE’s first estimates for January putting the median monthly wage for salaried employees at £2,096 in Scotland, an increase of 12.1% since February 2020 before the pandemic.
This figure was higher than the median wage growth for the UK as a whole over the same period, which was 10.3%.
Last year alone, Scotland saw the biggest pay rise of any region in the UK other than Northern Ireland, with wages rising by 7.1% against a UK average of 6, 3%.
One of the factors was that people quit their old jobs and then received higher wages when they got a new one, as employers had to pay more to overcome staff shortages.
The estimated economic activity rate – the proportion of people of working age who are not working and not seeking or available for work – was 22.6% in Scotland in the last three months of 2021, in increase of 0.6 points in one quarter, and higher than the British rate. by 21.2%.
The experimental number of claimants, which includes people on Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit for being unemployed, was 140,500 in Scotland in January, a drop of 3,600 or 2.5% on one months, but still 27,500 or 24.3% more than before the pandemic.
The count rate for Scottish claimants last month was 4.4%, but 4.6% for the UK as a whole.
SNP Employment Minister Richard Lochhead said: “From October to December 2021, Scotland’s estimated employment rate fell in the quarter to 74.1% while the unemployment rate estimated remained unchanged at 4.1%.
“First separate estimates from HMRC show 2.4 million salaried employees in Scotland in January 2022, 14,000 more than in February 2020, before the pandemic.
“Despite a period of further economic uncertainty due to the spread of Omicron, the Scottish Government is strongly committed to doing everything in its power to seize our economic potential and build an economy of secure, sustainable and satisfying jobs.
“That’s why the 2022/23 Scottish Budget will invest an extra £68.3 million in employability and training to help businesses tackle skills shortages and build a fairer and more prosperous economy for all. .”
Tory MSP Liz Smith said: “It is extremely worrying that the number of people in work in Scotland has fallen in the last three months of the year – especially as employment levels have increased overall from the United Kingdom.
“This is even more alarming evidence that Scotland is starting to fall behind our closest neighbors in our recovery from the pandemic.
“Despite their promises, the SNP failed to protect jobs and livelihoods in the wake of the Omicron variant. Scottish employers suffered from tougher restrictions than elsewhere in the UK in December, and the woefully slow rollout of support funding by the SNP has put businesses under even more pressure.
“The SNP must now take concrete action to help Scottish businesses rebuild after the pandemic, boost employment and enable our wider economy to recover.”
However, Scottish Conservative Secretary Alister Jack seemed less alarmed.
He said: “The UK government’s jobs plan is working, with the number of Scots on the payroll remaining higher than before the pandemic and unemployment rates stable. This is good news.
“While we have to watch the job market closely, our economy is showing resilience, thanks to the unprecedented package of measures we put in place at the start of the pandemic.
“We will continue to help Scots find employment and progress in work. This is a key part of our Leveling Up programme, which will create opportunities and improve the lives of people in all parts of the UK.