Scotland and London are the only parts of the UK where employment remains lower than before the coronavirus pandemic, the latest labour market figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the unemployment rate in Scotland has remained stable at 4.4% over the past three months compared to the previous quarter.
But with employment increasing in all but two regions and countries of the UK, the level of employment for those aged 16 to 64 in Scotland lags behind the UK average and is still lower than February 2020.
The figures for June to August 2021 reveals Scotland’s employment rate is 74.3%, a 0.3 percentage point increase from the previous three-month period.
However, compared to the three months before the first coronavirus lockdown, estimated employment of working age Scots was 1.1 percentage points lower.
The year-on-year change for Scotland is that employment has increased by 0.2 percentage points while unemployment is down by 0.1.
Across the whole of the UK, the employment rate is 75.3% with unemployment standing at 4.5%.
Scotland’s employment minister Richard Lochhead said: “For June-August 2021, Scotland’s employment rate estimate increased over the quarter to 74.3% and the unemployment rate estimate remained the same over the quarter at 4.4%.
“Separate HMRC early estimates, also published this morning, show 15,000 more payrolled employees in September than August 2021. However, this is 12,000 fewer payrolled employees compared with February 2020, which reflects our gradual ongoing economic recovery from the pandemic.
“The Scottish Government will continue to do all we can to support employees and employers and we are carefully monitoring any impact on employment resulting from the withdrawal of the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme.”
Lochhead argued that the Scottish Government was investing more than £1bn over the current financial year on job creation, training and skills, but suggested that the UK Government “needs to take action on immigration policy” to address worker shortages in some sectors.
Reacting to the labour market figures, Matthew Percival, the CBI’s programme director for skills and inclusion, said: “Companies have found hiring difficult this autumn and the official data is beginning to tell the same story, with the number of people on payroll exceeding pre-Covid highs and record vacancies.
“It’s welcome that (UK) Government has set up a new taskforce chaired by Sir David Lewis to advise on the impact of supply chain disruption and labour shortages on the recovery.
“Business and Government working together is the best way to create the high-wage, high-skill, high-investment, high-productivity economy we all want to see.”