Unemployment Total Rises To 179,000

Unemployment in Scotland increased by 3,000 to 179,000 last quarter, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics also recorded an increase of 16,000 of those in employment over the three months from December to February. 

The number of those in employment in Scotland now stands at 2,575,000. Scotland's unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 6.5%, below the average UK figure of of 6.9%. 

First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the latest labour market statistics which he said showed employment levels were at a "record high''. 

He said: "Today's historic jobs figures show the Scottish Government's policy of investing in infrastructure to boost the economy is making significant progress with employment levels at a record high. 

"To put it in perspective, there are 285,000 more people in employment today than there were when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999. 

"Scotland is outperforming the UK across employment, unemployment and inactivity rates which goes to show even with the limited powers over the economy at our disposal we are improving our country's economic health.'' 

The employment rate rose by 0.6 percentage points over the quarter to 73.3% - above the UK average rate of 72.6%. 

The number of people in employment rose by 68,000 over the year. 

Unemployment in Scotland increased by 3,000 over the quarter but fell by 0.8 percentage points or 18,000 over the year to 179,000. 

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 2,400 to 104,600 in March, the 17th consecutive drop in claimants. 

The level is down 32,100 on March 2013. Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "It is encouraging to see 16,000 more Scots move into work and the number claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fall for the 17th straight month. 

"There are now 68,000 more people in work and around 32,000 fewer people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance than one year ago. 

"With business confidence increasing, inflation falling to a four-and-a-half-year low and seven consecutive months of positive Scottish economic growth, Scotland is doing well as part of the UK. 

"Any rise in unemployment shows that challenges remain. We must ensure that, as the economy recovers, the benefits are seen in communities across the length and breadth of Scotland.''