Labour market changes and implications for policy and labour market information (LMI) in Scotland

Boyd, Stephen (2014) Labour market changes and implications for policy and labour market information (LMI) in Scotland. Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, 38 (2). pp. 63-80. ISSN 2046-5378

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The recovery from the deep recession of 2008/09 has been weak and somewhat unusual: employment has been stronger than anticipated given the slow recovery in output. The labour market’s recovery is undoubtedly impressive when it is measured by headline employment, unemployment and activity statistics. However a focus only on headline statistics risks masking a number of trends which conflate to justify a less optimistic assessment. Of particular interest has been the rapid embedding of labour market trends which had started to emerge pre-recession such as underemployment, self-employment, youth unemployment and insecure forms of working. The unprecedented collapse in real wages since 2009 is proving more durable than many commentators believed and the remarkable increase in people aged over 65 remaining in work has hardly featured in public discourse. Though ambiguity persists as to the extent to which these trends reflect structural shifts or the remnants of a cyclical downturn, it is argued that at least some of these trends reflect structural shifts. The potential impacts of these domestic and global trends on the Scottish labour market and their implications for policy at Scottish level are discussed. In doing so, a number of ongoing and serious issues with the range and quality of Scottish labour market data are discussed.