Unemployment Total Down 15,000

18 February 2015, 10:31 | Updated: 18 February 2015, 10:32

The number of Scots in work has reached a new record high after the jobless total fell by 15,000 in three months.

Official figures show unemployment in Scotland - which includes those who are out of work and not eligible for benefits - dropped to 149,000 in the final three months of last year.

That total is 48,000 less than the same period the previous year, with Deputy First Minister John Swinney saying: "Unemployment is now back to levels not seen since 2009 as the Scottish economy continues to recover.''

The number of Scots in work increased by 63,000 over the year and 20,000 from October to December, to stand at 2,625,000, the Office for National Statistics also revealed.

The unemployment rate north of the border continues to be lower than that for the UK as a whole, at 5.4% compared to 5.7%.

The number of people who are out of work and claiming benefits has also fallen, with the January figure of 81,100 a drop of 3,200 from the previous month.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "Today's figures show employment in Scotland is up by 63,449 on the year. That's more than the working age population of Dundee.

"UK employment has increased more across this parliament than in any other parliament since records began and Scotland continues to share in that because we said No to separation last year. Scotland and the rest of Britain are working because our Lib Dem inspired recovery plan is working. We're creating the right economic conditions for businesses to invest and grow.

"While there is a lot more to do to fully repair our economy, and especially to support North Sea oil and gas, this strong job creation is powerful evidence that we have laid the foundations of a recovery for all.''

But Mr Swinney said: "Scotland is outperforming the UK on all three headline labour market indicators with employment continuing to increase and unemployment down.''

The number of women in work increased by 20,000 over the period October to December to reach 1,301,000 - the highest female employment level on record.

"Female employment and participation are both at a record high, and above UK rates,'' Mr Swinney said.

"The gap between male and female employment rates in Scotland has shrunk to a record low of 4.0 percentage points - compared to 9.5 percentage points in the UK. Not only is the employment rate in Scotland higher, we are also seeing more women in employment.

"This clearly demonstrates that the Scottish Government can do much to secure economic growth, tackle inequality and protect public services within the limited powers we have, but we want to - and can - do more.''

The Deputy First Minister added: "UK Government proposals for the devolution of support to the unemployed fall well short of what was promised, hampering efforts to address joblessness by devolving only a section of the current support network and leaving important levers to support people as soon as they become unemployed in the hands of UK ministers.''

But Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the figures show the UK Government's long term economic plan is having results.

He said: "Employment has reached a new record high, more women are in work than ever before and the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance has fallen to its lowest level since August 2008.''

Since coming to power in 2010 the coalition Government at Westminster has cut taxes for business, created incentives for new jobs and tackled the deficit, Mr Carmichael said.

"As a result there are now 187,000 more people in work, inflation is at a record low and wages are on the increase, meaning more hard-working Scots and their families have more money in their pockets.

"With economic activity and employment levels in Scotland above the UK average, it is clear our businesses are making the most of the opportunities that come with being part of the UK with our shared currency, pensions and a large and diverse economy which is forecast to grow faster than any other G7 country in the last year.

"We've had to take difficult decisions and tackle the deep economic problems we inherited head on. These figures today show our decisions are benefiting communities across Scotland.''