THE number of adults in Scotland who have never had a job rose by almost 20% last year to just fewer than 125,000, a new report has revealed.

The research also found that in all but three of Scotland's 32 local authority areas the employment rate in 2013 was lower than at the start of the recession in 2008.

This reflects the "continuing challenging economic circumstances," according to the report, which was published by Scotland's Chief Statistician.

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Last year there were 124,800 people in Scotland over the age of 16 who were not in full-time education and who had never had a job - up by 19.4% on 2012.

The report stated that the number of people in this category "has been gradually increasing since 2004".

Across Scotland as a whole, the employment rate was 71% last year - up slightly from 70.6% in 2012 but still lower than 2008, when it stood at 73.5%.

While 20 council areas experienced a rise in their employment rate between 2012 and 2013, the report said 29 had seen a reduction between 2008, when the recession began, and 2013.

East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian and North Lanarkshire all have higher employment rates than in 2008 - with the rate up by two percentage points in East Dunbartonshire and one percentage point in the other two areas. But the report said the Dundee City Council area had experienced the largest decrease between 2012 and 2013 - a drop of 3.9 percentage points to 61.4%.

Since 2008, the largest falls in the employment rate have been in North Ayrshire, Dundee City and Midlothian, with these falling by 8.8, 8.1 and 5.3 percentage points respectively.

Almost one in 10 people in work (9.6%) were classed as being underemployed in 2013, with 234,100 workers in this category - a drop of 9300 on the previous year but 59,600 higher than at the start of the recession.

The youth employment rate - the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who are in work - fell slightly, from 53.2% in 2012 to 52.6% in 2013, according to the data.

The youth employment rate north of the Border was higher than the rate of 49.8% for the UK as a whole. However, the proportion of young people who are out of work in Scotland was slightly higher, at 20.6% compared to 20.1% in the UK.

Scotland has also experienced a larger increase in the youth unemployment rate since 2008, with this up by seven percentage points north of the border compared to a rise of 5.1 percentage points across the UK over the period.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra said the figures showed "just how difficult the recession has been for everyone, but particularly young Scots", and attacked the promotion of youth employment minister Angela Constance to Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women's Employment.

Ms Marra said: "Ironically, while more of our young people languish on the dole, the minister in charge of this terrible performance has been given a promotion by her boss." She added: "Young people, let down by this government, will be angered at her dismal record being rewarded."

Ms Constance said the figures showed employment prospects were improving across much of Scotland, with women's employment driving much of this improvement.

She said more recent data from the Office for National Statistics showed a "positive picture was being sustained into this year, with employment levels now 13,000 above their pre-recession peak in 2008" and that Scotland was outperforming the UK across all headline labour market indicators, with a lower unemployment rate, higher employment rate and lower economic inactivity rate.