The number of Scots in work has jumped by 15,000 in three months, new figures show.

Official statistics reveal that over the period November to January, there were 2,561,000 people in employment north of the border.

That total is just 1,000 less than it was prior to the recession, according to the Scottish Government.

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Employment has now increased for the last 13 months, with the new total 79,000 higher than it was 12 months ago.

Unemployment also fell over the period November to January, dropping by 6,000 to stand at 190,000.

Scotland's unemployment rate has now reduced to 6.9% and remains lower than the UK rate of 7.2%.

The number of people who are out of work and claiming jobseeker's allowance fell too, reducing by 3,300 between January and February to 106,800 - with this total 30,400 less than the same time in 2013.

Education Secretary Mike Russell said: "Today's labour market figures show that the number of people in employment in Scotland continues to increase, bringing the country close to pre-recession employment levels, whilst the unemployment rate has fallen to below 7%.

"On all three key measures of employment, unemployment and inactivity rates, Scotland continues to outperform the UK."

He said the boost in employment underlined the "strength of Scotland's economy across a range of sectors".

Mr Russell added that independence would allow Scotland to "take a different approach to that of Westminster's austerity agenda, focused on maintaining and building sustainable economic growth to strengthen our economy and create jobs".

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the figures show the country is doing well as part of the UK.

He said: "Creating the environment where businesses can create jobs and get people into employment is central to the Government's long-term economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy. Today's figures show this plan is working for Scotland - that means more people into work and a Scottish economy that is going from strength to strength within the UK.

"The number of Scots claiming unemployment has now fallen for 16 consecutive months and is now 30,400 lower compared to a year ago.

"We are doing well together. Each one of the figures today represents another person or household getting back into the labour market. There is no compelling argument why we should put that success at risk by becoming a separate country."

Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said "things are moving in the right direction", and that was "largely down to the actions of the UK Government".

He added: "We're not complacent, and we know unemployment in Scotland is still far too high.

"But these figures appear to be improving all the time, and the fact Scotland performs better on unemployment shows being part of a strong UK is working for jobs and the economy."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Today's figures show that by working together across the UK we can continue to share in the economic progress whilst shaping our own domestic agenda in Scotland. In Scotland and across the UK thousands more people are in work. Unemployment continues to drop and our economic growth has continued its positive trend.

"Liberal Democrats in the UK Government are building a stronger economy right here in Scotland with lower taxes, higher pensions and more jobs. This is the positive and sustained economic progress which the broad UK shoulders enable us to deliver."