ONS: Scottish unemployment rate highest in the UK

Scotland’s unemployment rate is now the highest in the UK, according to the latest Labour Market Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

ONS: Scottish unemployment rate highest in the UK

The data has revealed that unemployment in Scotland for people over 16 was 4.6%, compared with a UK rate of 3.9%.

Unemployment across the country increased 30,000 to 127,000 between February and April as the coronavirus lockdown hit the labour market.

The data has highlighted that Scotland’s unemployment rate has risen from 3.5% in the previous quarter of the year.

Jamie Hepburn, business, fair work and skills minister, commented on the results: “These are the first labour market statistics to include a full month of lockdown measures, and show clearly the scale of the challenge facing Scotland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I know that many people will be feeling a deep sense of anxiety about their livelihoods. Keeping people in work while supporting those who have lost their jobs will continue to be at the heart of our thinking as we carefully reopen the economy.

“Scotland’s labour market has changed drastically since the lockdown measures were imposed. As such we will be convening a Labour Market Summit tomorrow, with Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead and I leading discussions with Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council to ensure a co-ordinated approach to tackling unemployment, giving people skills for the jobs that will be needed as we emerge from the crisis.

“While the Scottish Government has welcomed the support schemes from HMRC during this time, and their extension, it is important that we ensure this support continues to be offered for as long as required, particularly in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, retail, culture, and oil and gas, which will not have fully recovered by October. That is why we are urging the UK Government to work with us to ensure support reflects what is required in Scotland. Failure to do so will put the economy at a competitive disadvantage in recovering from this crisis, and could result in additional job losses. We must not allow that to happen.”

The news arrives as a new study from CV-Library revealed that a colossal 75.8% of Scottish people feel stressed about trying to find a new job in the current climate.

The study surveyed 1,100 professionals and found that 94.8% of Scots were hoping to find a new job in 2020. Amongst professionals who have put a pause on their job search, 52.9% said they won’t start looking again until lockdown is completely lifted and 35.3% said they’ll start searching again later in the year.

The findings show that people who aren’t currently working in Scotland are naturally the most stressed about finding a new role; with 77.4% of people who are unemployed and 77.8% of people on furlough admitting that they feel this way. The figure dropped to 66.7% among people working full-time.

The ONS figures have also revealed that the number of UK workers on payrolls plummeted by more than 600,000 between March and May.

Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland policy chair, commented on the figures. He said: “Today’s figures should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. That’s because they show unemployment rising even with support measures such as the furloughing scheme in place.

“To ensure that the worst predictions for joblessness in Scotland don’t come to pass, we’ll need governments in Edinburgh and London to help local firms get back to business and create jobs. The government must prevent a situation where measures to protect jobs are withdrawn but workers, consumers and firms still face lockdown conditions.

“After the last crash, nine in ten unemployed people that re-joined the workforce did so via a small business or though self-employment. That’s why we want to see the Scottish Government put the jobs potential of local firms at the heart of their plans for recovery. In addition, we’re urging the UK Government lower the cost of employment by reducing employer’s national insurance contributions.”

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “These unemployment figures are concerning but they only hint at the scale of the challenge that lies ahead. Protecting jobs must be a top priority. We continue to call on the Chancellor to provide a flexible approach to the furlough scheme in Scotland. This includes extending it further for the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality and tourism. These sectors are where there is greatest risk of a jobs crisis, which will disproportionately affect young people and the low paid.

“The huge decrease in vacancies shows the gulf in opportunity that is widening when it comes to jobs in retail, hotels and restaurants. As businesses eagerly await detail of the measures we require to enter Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s road map, it is clear that the relaxation of the 2 metre distance to 1 metre will be essential to prevent wholesale economic collapse of these sectors and support business recovery.’’

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “We can now clearly see the significant impact the virus is having on the labour market already. Over 600,000 employees were taken off payroll between March and May, vacancies fell by the largest amount on record on the quarter, with wholesale & retail and accommodation & food services – two important sectors for the Scottish economy – faring particularly badly.

“Unemployment falls unevenly across society and leaves scars that last generations. The urgent priority must be creating inclusive jobs today, by turbocharging the sustainable industries of tomorrow. This should be backed by a revolution in retraining, with business, government and education providers stepping up to reskill communities for the future.”

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