The number of Scots in work increased 16,000 last quarter, with 2,578,000 people now in employment.

Unemployment in Scotland fell by 7,000 to 183,000 in the period covering February to April, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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The Scottish unemployment rate is currently 6.6% - the same as for the whole of the UK.

The employment rate rose by 0.5% to 73.4% compared to the UK average of 72.9%.

On an annual basis, employment is up 48,000 on the same period last year and the number of unemployed people has fallen by 10,000.

The official data shows 100,500 people claimed Jobseeker's Allowance over the three months - the lowest level since December 2008. The rate now stands at 3.7%.

The Scottish Government welcomed the figure of 1,244,000 women now in employment - an increase of 35,000 since last year and the highest level since records began in 1992.

The female job rate is 69.8%, compared to the UK figure of 67.9%.

Angela Constance, the Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women's Employment, said the figures underline Scotland's "strong and continued economic growth".

She said: "Scotland continues to outperform the UK across employment and inactivity rates, with an unemployment rate equal to that in the UK.

"Female employment, in particular, has increased markedly to reach its highest levels since comparable records began in 1992.

"Clearly, we still face challenges with 69,000 young people in Scotland recorded as unemployed.

"We will redouble our efforts to enable Scotland's young people to share the benefits of the growing jobs market."

Ms Constance added: "Overall this excellent set of job figures underlines the continuing recovery in the Scottish labour market, however we also know that with full economic powers of independence there is much more we could do to further strengthen our economy and give business access to the human skills they need to grow and to create even more jobs."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael also welcomed the figures.

He said: "Working together as part of the UK creates better opportunities, more secure jobs and record high levels of employment in Scotland. I am delighted today's figures show there are a record number of women in employment in Scotland.

"More and more Scots are moving into employment or becoming entrepreneurs and the employers of tomorrow. Over the past year employment has increased by 48,000, unemployment has fallen by 10,000 and the number of Scots claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has fallen for the 19th straight month and is 33,600 lower than 12 months ago.

"There is much work to be done, particularly in ensuring every community across the country sees the benefits of the ongoing economic recovery. We will continue with our long term economic plan generating the conditions for business confidence to grow further, helping them to create more high quality sustainable jobs."

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the fall in unemployment suggests increased confidence in a strengthening economy.

She said: "All of this is good news but as the appetite of business for skilled workers grows, we must also ensure that the supply of skills matches emerging demand.

"That is why we believe that last week's report by the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, chaired by Sir Ian Wood, requires urgent action from government, the education system and business.

"Getting the balance right between vocational and academic training, effective and accurate careers guidance and early involvement by businesses in schools are essential if we are to tackle skills shortages and create more job opportunities."

Figures released today by Scotland's Chief Statistician showed employment in the private sector has increased by 5% over the year, with 2,020,800 people now working in the private sector.

It compares to a 6.2% fall in employment in the public sector to 545,200, the lowest level since 1999.

Private sector employment now accounts for 78.8% of total employment in Scotland and public sector jobs 21.2%.

Scottish Labour's Iain Gray welcomed the unemployment drop, but said more needs to be done to support the tens of thousands of young people without work.

He said: "Any fall in unemployment is welcome although the rate has in fact gone up since last month, and we still have some way to go before the rate is down to pre-recession levels which sat at under 5% in December 2007.

"Concerns remain about how many of the new jobs created are insecure, part-time, zero-hours contracts or pay below the minimum wage. What is more, increases in employment rates have been almost entirely driven by the over-50s, with fewer 16 to 24-year-olds in jobs.

"We need to look behind the headlines and redouble efforts to create stable, well-paid full-time jobs, especially for young people."

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC, said the continued improvement in the labour market was to be welcomed but criticised the "complacent political response" to the monthly figures.

He said: "Both unemployment and employment have a long way to go before pre-recession rates are achieved.

"Youth unemployment is stubbornly high with the over-65s the only age group to show an increase in its employment rate since the recession. Wages show little sign of a robust recovery.

"It is also interesting to note that over the past year the pace of the labour market recovery has slowed in Scotland relative to the UK as a whole.

"Given the inadequacy of the Scottish statistics, nothing new was learned today about full-time, part-time or self-employment, although it would be surprising if Scotland escaped the further steep fall in real wages confirmed in the UK figures."


Analysis: Michael Settle's gives his views on the latest employment figures

IF the General Election were a numbers game, then David Cameron would be chuckling over his cornflakes this morning.

The UK jobless fell by 161,000 to 2.16m in the three months to April, bringing the unemployment rate down to 6.6%. Those in work rose by a record 345,000, to 30.5m, most of which are in full-time employment. And the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in June fell by 27,400 to 1.09m.

In Scotland, unemployment fell by 7000 over the quarter with the rate falling 0.3 percentage points to 6.6%, the same as the UK.

Overall, employment increased by 16,000, up 0.5 percentage points to 73.4%. This compares to the UK employment rate of 72.9%.

The Scottish Government, keen to improve the ratings for women in favour of independence, highlighted how the female employment figure of 1.24m was the highest  since comparable records began in 1992. Some 35,000 more women are now in work than a year ago.

It also pointed out how Scotland's female employment rate of 69.8% was also higher than the UK rate of 67.9%.

As always success has many fathers while failure is an orphan.

But while the Prime Minister will be chuckling, Ed Miliband will be having difficulty again in consuming his bacon buttie. While the Labour leader will continue to insist the cost of living crisis is hurting people right across the UK, the economic numbers are increasingly going in the wrong direction from an electoral point of view.

Mr Cameron will resist crowing too much at PMQs today, as will Chancellor George Osborne when he delivers his annual Mansion House speech tomorrow, but inwardly they will both be punching the air.