YOUNG people have borne the brunt of the pandemic job losses in Scotland, with 114,000 fewer jobs in Scotland at the end of the year than the same time in 2019.

The largest declines were in sectors predominantly staffed by younger workers, such as the arts and entertainment industries, as well as the food services and accommodation sectors.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the number of employee jobs in Scotland in December 2020 had fallen by 80,000 compared to the same period in 2019, with the latest data showing around 2.4m jobs in Scotland at the end of last year.

Self-employed jobs have faced a similar fate, with a reduction of 35,000, to 275,000, in the same one-year period.

While the overall employment figures have remained relatively stable in the last quarter in Scotland, experts say the trend over time is "worrying".

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The employment rate overall in Scotland rose slightly between the third quarter of the year (September to November 2020) and the fourth (December - February 2021), with 0.2% more people employed, giving a total employment rate of 74.6% for the period.

Compared to December 2019-February 2020, there were 23,000 fewer people in employment in Scotland by the same period a year later - a fall of around 0.7%.

The latest figures also show that young people between 16 and 25 were the worst affected in terms of job losses, with unemployment rising from 8.3% in 2019 to 13.5% by December 2020.

Dr Stuart McIntyre, Head of Research at the Fraser of Allander Institute, said the data showed "continuing stability" as a "direct consequence of the continued operation of the UK Government furlough support scheme."

However he warned: "Look deeper into the data and a set of worrying trends appear to be emerging.

“The number of young people who are unemployment has jumped by 15,500 over the last year, with the youth unemployment rate rising from 8.3% to 13.5%.

"The closure of large parts of the hospitality and retail economy through the pandemic, sectors where many young people find work, is clearly feeding through."

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According to provisional ONS data, there were 37,000 fewer jobs in accommodation and food services sectors in December 2020 than December 2019 - a fall of 17.2%.

The arts and entertainment industry also suffered an 18.4% loss in jobs, with 20,000 fewer positions by the end of 2020 than there were in 2019.

Dr McIntyre continued: "The Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery recommended last summer that a Scottish Jobs Guarantee be implemented to support young people affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic.

"This guaranteed everyone aged between 16 and 24 the opportunity of work, education or training. The latest data suggest that there remains some way to go in delivering this promise."

He said there were concerns about the North East particularly, adding the area "continues to experience a much larger decline in payroll employment than elsewhere in Scotland, down nearly 6% since March 2020, representing the combined effect of the downturn in oil and gas and wider effects of the pandemic."

"Coupled with the recent announcement of the closure of John Lewis in Aberdeen, it is clear that this is one part of the Scottish economy that is facing particularly acute challenges." he said.

There will be a set of "serious challenges" for the new administration following the May 6 elections, according to Dr McIntyre, who added: "If we are to avoid longer term damage to the economy it is critical that the response is one of practical support and not further advisory groups and strategy documents.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that "protecting jobs and the economy has been my main focus since this pandemic began" and said the furlough scheme alone has protected 11.2m jobs.

He added: "As we progress on our roadmap to recovery, I will continue to put people at the heart of the Government's response through our Plan for Jobs - supporting and creating jobs across the country.”

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Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government's Economy, Fair Work and Culture secretary said the SNP had a "strong track record" on youth unemployment and young adults would be put "front and centre of our economic recovery if re-elected."

She added: "We are working with businesses, colleges and the third sector to deliver the pledge and just as we did during the UK governments last recession, we will make sure our young people are protected and supported for the future."

Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, said the data shows the need to put recovery first.

She said: "These figures are still rising but clearly show the importance of the furlough scheme, and if the Government goes ahead with plans to end it in September, it could have far reaching consequences.

“But it also shows clearly why the Scottish Government needs to focus on putting the recovery first rather than a bitter, divisive and expensive independence referendum.

“We need both our Governments to work together to tackle the threat of mass unemployment...This is not the time to be arguing about the constitution."