ONS: Scotland’s employment rate dropped in first quarter of the year

Between January and March 2020, Scotland’s employment rate dropped to 74.7% and the unemployment rate estimate rose over the quarter to 4.1% according to the latest Labour Market Statistics Update by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

ONS: Scotland's employment rate dropped in first quarter of the year

Jamie Hepburn

Jamie Hepburn, Scotland’s business, fair work and skills minister, has highlighted however that whilst these rates compare well against historical records, “they do not reflect fully the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and how it will change over time.”

He said: “The Job Retention Scheme will have offered some relief to many employers and employees, but I am aware many will be deeply concerned about the future of their livelihoods.

“We are acutely aware of the huge impact the lockdown measures are having on people and businesses throughout the country. However, these measures are vital for controlling the coronavirus outbreak, saving lives and protecting the NHS.

“The Scottish Government has already provided £2.3 billion in support to businesses and livelihoods, and we will continue to do everything in our power to support employers and employees.”

He added: “Recognising that our economic response to this crisis needs to be urgent, wide-ranging and co-ordinated, the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, responsible for co-ordinating the activities of Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies, will refocus their attention, capacity and efforts on addressing the economic challenges presented by this pandemic.

“The Board will establish urgently how the Scottish Government, agencies, businesses and local government can collaborate to support the restart of our economy, mitigate the rise in unemployment as we recover from COVID-19 and help those who have lost jobs get back to work.

“Over the coming weeks I will work closely with the board and business community as we begin to set out clearly – and in detail – the package of support to be made available to individuals and businesses to restart our economy and to aid quick recovery from this crisis.”

In comparison, the data found that the UK employment rate in the three months to March 2020 was estimated at a joint-record high of 76.6%, 0.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points up on the previous quarter.

The ONS has also highlighted that the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in the UK skyrocketed in March, the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown. According to the ONS figures, in April, the claimant count increased by 856,500 to 2.1 million.

Commenting on the announcement, Kevin Brown, savings specialist at Scottish Friendly, said: “These figures have some worrying details in them with a huge upsurge in benefit claimants and a collapse in new job vacancies foreshadowing worse to come when April’s data is fully reflected next month.

“While ONS’s stats for April wage growth are ‘experimental’ it is clear that we are heading in one direction. It is a tough time for many families as pay packets are squeezed and the cost of household essentials rises. We shall see tomorrow from the latest inflation figures just how bad that pinch really is.

“More generally, savers should take all of these statistics with a grain of salt, as it’s a fast changing situation and the outlook can quickly shift. Even the ONS itself admitted that lockdown has affected the reliability of the data as its normal surveying practices have been disrupted. 

“Ultimately for savers what matters is keeping a close eye on their savings and how rates are changing across their accounts. Staying on top of what their provider and others are doing will help them to find the best home for their deposits in these uncertain times.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
Share icon
Share this article: