Scottish labour market shows slow progress as economic challenges persist

Scottish labour market shows slow progress as economic challenges persist

Ann Frances Cooney

The latest labour market statistics for January to March 2024 in Scotland reveal a mixed picture of progress and ongoing challenges.

The figures showed 2.45 million payrolled employees in Scotland in April 2024, a 6,000 year-on-year increase.

Glasgow-based employment law specialist Ann Frances Cooney, who is partner at DWF, said: “Overall the figures show continued resilience as we emerge from the most recent recession.”

She expressed optimism about the market’s potential for further recovery in the short to medium term, especially considering reports of economic growth.

Ms Cooney commented: “The unemployment rate in Scotland was 4.4%, down 0.1% over the quarter. Scotland’s unemployment rate was slightly above the UK rate of 4.3%. The employment rate in Scotland was 73.1%, down 1.2% over the quarter.

“Scotland’s employment rate was below the UK rate of 74.5%. The figures remain relatively robust against a difficult economic climate. As we look ahead we can hope for further recovery in the short to medium term with reports of the economy growing again.

“The economic inactivity rate in Scotland was 23.4%, up 1.4% over the quarter. Scotland’s inactivity rate was above the UK rate of 22.1%.”

She continued: “Early seasonally adjusted estimates for April 2024 from HMRC Pay As You Earn Real Time Information indicate that median monthly pay for payrolled employees in Scotland was £2,386, an increase of 4.8% compared with April 2023.

“Pay is a key component for attracting and retaining talent as employees have demonstrated time and again that they will move jobs for higher salaries to help combat inflated prices.

“Whilst pay remains a major factor, employers should also focus on creating a positive workplace culture to help inspire a sense of loyalty and attract top talent – helping to boost both productivity and labour supply.”

Economy secretary Kate Forbes MSP welcomed the positive aspects of the data, however, she also acknowledged “the ongoing challenges facing our economy, including the cost of living crisis”, adding that the Scottish Government is “investing more than £5 billion to grow and transform Scotland’s economic landscape.”

She added: “The economic opportunities for Scotland are huge. Yesterday the First Minister welcomed major investment in Ardersier Port while today work will begin on Sumitomo’s high voltage cable plan in the Inverness and Cromarty Green Freeport.

“Both these developments, supported by the Scottish Government, demonstrate how we are becoming a renewables powerhouse and turning opportunities into jobs.”

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