Scottish Labour Market Trends [May 2019]

Fraser of Allander Institute, Scottish Centre for Employment Research; (2019) Scottish Labour Market Trends [May 2019]. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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On headline indicators like the unemployment and employment rates, things have barely been better in the Scottish and UK labour market. Scotland’s unemployment rate is at 3.2%, a record low since the current series began in 1992. The UK saw its unemployment rate drop to 3.8%, its lowest since 1974. This strong performance on headline indicators holds not only in aggregate, but for both men and women. The UK female unemployment rate is the lowest rate since records began in 1971 of 3.7%, the employment rate for women stayed at its record high of 71.8% recorded in the last set of data. For men the unemployment rate at 3.9% is its lowest since 1975, with the employment rate at 80.3%, down only slightly on its recent near two decade high at the end of last year. Some people have criticised the survey measures on which these indicators are based, and suggested that this is behind these impressive headline numbers. For example, to be classed as employed you only need to do an hour of work in the reference week. While it is always important to think about whether trends in the data are being driven by how we measure them, the ONS have illustrated that the impact of these issues on headline indicators is small. Yet, there is barely anybody who believes that the labour market is really working well for everyone. Economic growth is weak, productivity growth is muted, and wage growth is struggling to outpace inflation. In this edition of labour market trends we will look in more detail at both the headline indicators, but also wider indicators of what is happening in the Scottish labour market. We review the latest data on who is employed in the UK labour market, what sort of employment they are in, and what is happening to the hours being worked. We also review the latest data on earnings using data from both surveys and also data from the HMRC on income liable for pay-asyou- earn taxation. We finish our review of the Scottish labour market with a look at the evolving picture of labour productivity, not just for Scotland as a whole, but also for industrial sectors in Scotland. Using the latest ONS data we also look at the pattern of productivity growth across Scotland.