Long-term unemployment rose for every age group and campaigners said the figures laid bare the difficulties faced by people trying to find replacement jobs in the current market, even before the full impact of the UK Government’s austerity measures became clear.
The increase comes as UK unemployment rose to almost 2.5 million, although in Scotland the equivalent figure, which takes into account those who are not eligible for benefits, fell in the three months to the end of November. The number of people north of the Border claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose slightly in last month.
Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: “With public spending cuts only beginning to bite in terms of employment, the Scottish labour market faces a grim 2011.
“If the UK Government cared at all for jobs and growth it would use the March Budget to revisit its ideological austerity programme that will needlessly condemn Scots workers and benefit recipients to years of economic insecurity and hardship.”
Susan McPhee, director of external affairs at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “The numbers of people out of work in Scotland now are so high that every family will know someone who is looking to find work and can’t get it.
“These figures also mask the reality that many of those who are in work are stuck in insecure, part-time or low-paying jobs that really don’t meet their needs.”
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, represent a mixed picture. Employment in Scotland rose for the sixth consecutive time and the proportion of people in work is higher north of the Border than across the UK.
A total of 2,470,000 people were employed in Scotland between September and November last year, although despite the rise there were 38,000 fewer people in work than in the same period in 2009. The employment rate was 70.7%, just above the UK average of 70.4%, and it has increased in Scotland at a time when it has fallen across the rest of the country.
However, the number of Scots claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in December also rose by 2200 to 138,300, while overall unemployment -- including those who are not eligible for benefits -- fell by 5000 in a three-month period.
Ian Cumming lost his job four days ago after working for Interlink JV, the contractor running the M74 project. The 48-year-old, from Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, said: “I blame the recession and the downturn in the construction industry.
“I was expecting this to come and it was no great surprise. I have colleagues and friends who do the same kind of job and some of them have been un-employed for more than two years.”
Mr Cumming, who is married with two sons aged 10 and seven, said: “I’m trying to keep myself upbeat about it and trying not to let it get me down.”
He hopes when industry starts to recover, opportunities will arise for him. “There are little signs of things happening,” Mr Cumming added.
Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said: “Tackling the deficit is unavoidable and the steps we are taking are already helping keep long-term interest rates lower and encourage businesses to invest and grow.”
Scots Finance Secretary John Swinney said the recovery remained at a crucial stage. He added: “We must continue to bring unemployment down, and the UK Government is wrong to threaten the positive signs we are seeing by cutting the Scottish budget by £1.3 billion next year.”
l Gordon Brown will today warn that the world faces youth unemployment of “epidemic proportions”.
Giving the Ted Kennedy/John Harvard lecture in London, the former PM will call on US President Barack Obama to give a lead in boosting education, training and job opportunities.