Record level for number of employed

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Headlines have hailed the news that the latest employment rate in the UK hit a record high in May of 74.2%, with more people in work than ever before.

Official figures by the Office of National Statistics show there are now 31.58 million people in work and the unemployment rate remains at 5.1%, the lowest in a decade and below recession levels.

However the news wasn’t so bright for Scotland as unemployment here rose by 8,000 in the period January to March 2016, and now stands at 169,000. The Scottish unemployment rate is 6.2 per cent, which is above the rate of 5.1 per cent for the whole of the UK.

The labour market statistics also show employment in Scotland fell by 53,000 over the three months January to March 2016.

The number of those in employment in Scotland now stands at 2,578,000.

Talking of the figures Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said: “These figures are a reminder of the real challenges facing Scotland’s economy.

“We know that we are experiencing a global economic slowdown, exacerbated in Scotland by the current downturn in the oil and gas sector.

“It is now more important than ever that Scotland’s two governments work together to do everything possible to boost the economy, create jobs and increase prosperity.

“The UK Government has an ambitious plan to support economic growth right across the country, investing in the infrastructure we need and backing businesses.

“That includes investing in UK City Deals across Scotland.”

Despite the relative gloom of Scotland employment statistics compared to national levels not all areas in the country have been hit.

The Western Isles have managed to buck the overall Scottish trend, and this is especially clear, when comparing unemployment figures to the Highland region (these are not seasonally adjusted like the national figures)

In the Islands the figures show benefits claimants aged 18 to 24 stand at 50 (down by 5) meaning a -9% decrease on last year.

All claimants in the region sit at 345 (down by 40) a -10% decrease.

In the Highland region the figure for benefits claimants aged 18 to 24 is 440 (down by 15) meaning a decrease on last year of -3%.

However that good news is not replicated when looking at all the claimants in the Highland area, that figure stands at 2,330 (up 80) and a 4% increase on last year.

Alan MacGillivray of Jobcentre Plus locally said: “Our figures are good compared to the rest of the Highland area with 40 less job seekers and for the 18 to 24 year olds it is a 9 per cent drop.

“We are not really able to put our finger on the reason why, folks are getting better skills, and we have seen an upturn in the hospitality industry keeping people on for longer.”

When asked if it was part-time or full-time jobs that islanders are looking for he described that it is a mixture of both, and explained that people may be taking on 12-hour or 20-hour contracts but are able to secure more hours.

He added that universal credit may also be having an impact on figures.

“Universal credit may be more helpful to people, as they can take jobs up to 30 hours and still be entitled to some support, so people are saying they will take that job, then they see if they can get a better job.”