Scottish Labour Market Trends [November 2018]

Fraser of Allander Institute, Scottish Centre for Employment Research; (2018) Scottish Labour Market Trends [November 2018]. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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Scotland's labour market continues to experience a period of historically low unemployment and near historically high employment. This is a pattern reflected across the UK. Among those in employment, the balance has shifted back toward growth in the number of employees with a recent fall in the number self—employed (in part, reversing a trend witnessed for over 10 years). While these headline indicators suggest that the labour market is in good health, wider indicators give some cause for concern. Much of the growth in employment since the global financial crisis is driven by increases in employment among those aged 65+. The youth (16—24 year old) employment rate is lower now than it was in 2008. The same is true for those aged 35—49. Youth unemployment however, is at a record low. These missing element here which connects these two is the increase in youth economic inactivity over this period. Economic activity is broad category which encompasses more (e.g. being in education) and less positive (e.g. being sick) outcomes and destinations for workers. Scotland has the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the UK. In common with most other parts of the UK, our headline unemployment rate has fallen over the past year. However Scotland was one of only two parts of the UK to register increases in economic inactivity over the past year, the other area was the South East of England. Care must be taken in reading too much into small differences in aggregate labour market statistics across parts of the UK. The data are based on the Labour Force Survey, and smaller sample sizes for sub-national statistics mean that the confidence intervals around local, English region and devolved nation labour market statistics can be large. Labour productivity growth remains weak. As a consequence earnings growth has remained weak too. Median real earnings (i.e. earnings after adjusting for inflation) growth has been – at best – barely positive over the last few years. The weakness of earnings and overall growth in the economy are reflected in the consumer confidence index for Scotland where consumers appear to be pessimistic about the outlook, and indeed more pessimistic than consumers elsewhere in the UK.