Scots Unemployment Falls By 16,000

Scotland's jobless total has fallen by 16,000 in three months, with new figures showing 129,000 people out of work.

Statistics for the period November 2016 to January 2017 revealed unemployment north of the border declined 42,000 over the course of the last year.

While the unemployment rate in Scotland had been higher than the UK, this has now evened out.

The proportion who are out of work now stands at 4.7% - the same rate as the UK as a whole.

Employment in Scotland increased by 16,000 over the period November to January to stand at 2,608,000 - although this total is still 21,000 lower than it was 12 months ago.

The proportion who are now in work increased by 0.4 percentage points over the quarter to 73.3%, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but this is still below the UK employment rate of 74.6%.

Meanwhile, the number of Scots out of work and claiming jobseeker's allowance fell by 2,000 to stand at 48,000 in February 2017 - a total which is 10,100 lower than the same month in 2016.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell welcomed the fall in unemployment but warned of the impact a second independence referendum could have on jobs.

The UK Government minister said: "This is good news, with more people in work and unemployment down.

"We want to see this continue and for the Scottish economy to start to close the worrying gap we've seen open up with the rest of the UK.

"The UK is supporting Scotland's economy through the £1.2 billion funding boost for the Scottish budget over the last five months, as well as direct investment by the UK in connectivity, innovation, industry and ensuring that every major city in Scotland either has or is in negotiations for a City Deal.

"The Scottish Government need to use this funding, and their significant policy levers to make Scotland more competitive and to secure its economy.

"That includes changing course and taking the biggest threat to Scotland's economy, the call for a second independence referendum, off the table altogether.''

Jamie Hepburn, Holyrood's employability and training minister, said the Scottish Government was giving people a choice between a hard Brexit and becoming an independent country.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Monday she intends to hold a second referendum on Scotland's future in the UK.

Mr Hepburn said: "We have set out our commitment to protecting Scotland's interests and will now take the steps necessary to ensure that Scotland has a choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit - or to become an independent country, able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.''

He stressed the latest figures showed "Scotland's labour market remains resilient with unemployment rates and levels falling, and our female and youth employment rates outperforming the UK overall''.

Mr Hepburn stated: "While we still have much to do, our work to develop opportunities for young people through apprenticeships and training, and to close the gender pay gap, is helping us set ourselves apart from the rest of the UK.''

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