With a third of the Scottish workforce on some kind of Government support and unemployment running ahead of that anywhere else in the UK, it seems obvious that more will need to be done to align our labour pool with those areas where there is demand for personnel.

The latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics were surprising in that fewer British workers lost their jobs in June than most economists had predicted. The UK unemployment rate held at 3.9% for the three months to May, with a slight decrease in the claimant count.

However, this isn’t particular cause for celebration. As one ONS deputy statistician pointed out in the footnotes to yesterday’s figures, the number of people classed as not looking for work – and therefore not “unemployed” – played a part in keeping the UK jobless rate down.


On the other hand, there was a tiny increase in the Scottish claimant count. The recorded rise of approximately 600 falls safely within the usual margins for statistical error, but could also reflect the slower pace at which Scotland has emerged from lockdown relative to the UK.

Companies are now starting to determine how many employees they can retain as the cliff edge for the end of Government furlough and support for the self-employed looms large at the end of October. It seems unlikely that the “retainment bonus” announced last week in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s mini-Budget – equivalent to £1,000 for every furloughed employee who is kept on – will have a significant impact on those decisions, though employers who were going to recall staff anyway will welcome this fillip.

Similarly, the Kickstart scheme to bring and retain young people into the workforce doesn’t go far enough, with coverage stopping at those aged 24. There is an argument this should be extended up to the age of 30 to prevent the formation of a significant skills gap in the workforce pipeline.


In Scotland, the unemployment rate now stands at 4.3%, higher than anywhere else in the UK. And while the number of job vacancies in June was 40% higher than in April, when lockdown measures were at their most extreme, they remain 60% lower than during the same period a year earlier.

Latest data compiled by s1jobs shows property and construction vacancies making the largest percentage increase comeback as the sector in Scotland started to slowly emerge from lockdown restrictions from the middle of June. This was followed by a rise in demand for ancillary services such as cleaners and janitors.

Those employment sectors most negatively impacted by Covid-19 in Scotland – catering and hospitality – have shown some growth since the country entered Phase 2, although this is modest and from an extremely low base. Given the fall in infection rates and various Government initiatives to restore consumer confidence, it can only be hoped this will translate into the increased footfall that will benefit the hospitality and retail industries.

Continual learning will be key as large numbers of workers will need to re-train to take up new vocations. Only in this way can we make the link between those who need work and the jobs that will be in demand in the future.

Gavin Mochan is Commercial Director at s1jobs.