THE number of Scots in work has reached a new high, with a record 2,585,000 people across the country now in employment.

The total, which covers the period January to March this year, is the highest since records began in 1992.

Employment is up by 29,000 over the quarter and is 67,000 higher than the same time last year, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed.

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The employment rate in Scotland continued to be above that for the UK as a whole, with 73.5 per cent of the population in work north of the border, compared to 72.7 per cent.

At the same time, the number of Scots who are out of work fell. There were 178,000 people unemployed in the period January to March, a drop of 18,000 over the quarter and 21,000 fewer than in the first three months of last year.

Scotland has a lower jobless rate than the rest of the UK, with this now at 6.4 per cent north of the border compared to 6.8 per cent.

As well as the fall in overall unemployment there was a drop in the number of Scots who are out of work and claiming jobseeker's allowance.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "The overall figure shows that Scottish businesses are becoming more confident to invest in new talent for the growth of their company.

"However, digging deeper into these figures, we can see that males have experienced an increase in employment, but this is not the same for women - who experienced a fall in employment by 5,000. It is crucial that our businesses prioritise a diverse skills base."

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), said while the figures showed "another decent rise in employment and the fall in unemployment" the unemployment rate was still 1.4 per cent below the rate achieved in 2007 and the fall confirmed yesterday "only takes the rate back to where it was last autumn".

Across the UK as a whole, employment also reached a record high, with more than 30.4 million people in work.