Another 15,000 Scots seeking work over lockdown

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Official figures show unemployment in Scotland rose between March and May as the impact of lockdown was felt

Unemployment in Scotland rose between March and May as the impact of lockdown was felt, official figures indicate.

Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.3% in the period, a 0.6% increase on the previous quarter. This was higher than the UK unemployment rate of 3.9%.

Scots seeking jobs was up by 15,000 to 120,000. Twice as many left jobs and were not looking for new work.

However, the figures were not as high as many feared, due to the high numbers of people on furlough.

There are nearly 750,000 workers on the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme.

Economists say the full effect on employment will not be felt until the scheme ends in October.

Because of the effect of the furlough scheme on the employment market, analysts say the number of hours worked per week is currently a truer reflection of the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The figures showed a sharp decline of nearly 17% in the number of hours worked in May across the UK. After inflation, average pay was down by 1.3%.

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The employment figures were not as high as many feared, due to the high numbers of people on furlough

The Scottish government’s Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme will have offered “some relief”, and called for the UK government to extended its furlough scheme.

She said: “The Job Retention Scheme will end in October but we believe the UK government must extend the scheme, particularly for sectors that have been most affected by COVID-19, for example travel and tourism and hospitality, given that most of these sectors will not have fully recovered by October.

Ms Hyslop added that the Scottish government had provided a package of support to businesses totalling over £2.3bn.

The number of people aged 16 to 64 in employment fell to 74.1% (2,642,000), a 1.2% drop on the previous quarter.

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The UK government’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “It’s clear that we’re in the middle of a severe economic downturn.

“I know people are anxious about losing their jobs and incomes. As I said last week, we will never accept unemployment as an unavoidable outcome, which is why I set out our clear plan last week to protect, support and create jobs.

“Our plan for jobs provides significant, targeted support where it is needed the most to ensure nobody is left without hope as we reopen our economy.”

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