North-east unemployment up 72%, still below Scottish average

Aberdeen news

The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits in the north-east of Scotland rose by 72% in December as the oil and gas industry sheds staff to cope with low oil prices.

But the region still has a lower level of claimants than the Scottish average as employment in Aberdeen city and shire have traditionally been among the lowest in the country.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show the claimant count in Aberdeen city rose 65% year-on-year to 2,520 – and by 82% in Aberdeenshire to 1,750.

The rise in claimants has prompted the Aberdeen Job Centre to boost the number of work coaches it employs.

Carol Sadler, universal credit manager at Aberdeen Job Centre, said the strength of the region’s labour market makes the percentage increase in claimants look worse than it actually is.

She said: “Aberdeen city and shire historically have had lower unemployment rates and claimant counts than the rest of the country, but in the last year we have seen dramatic increases.”

Despite the upsurge over the past year, Aberdeen city’s claimant count rate in December was just 1.6% of 16 to 64-year-olds, and in Aberdeenshire it was 1.1%.

For the UK, however, the claimant rate was 1.8%, whereas in Scotland it was 2.1%.

ONS defines the claimant count as “the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance plus those who claim Universal Credit who are out of work”.

Meanwhile, employment levels for Scotland as a whole hit a new record in the three months to November 30.

Both the Scottish and UK Governments hailed the overall employment increase while acknowledging the challenges presented by the oil sector downturn.

Across the country, the number of Scottish residents in work from September to November 2015 was up 19,000 on the same quarter a year earlier.

It means 2.63million people had jobs at the end of that period, the country’s highest employment level on record.

The country’s employment rate now sits at 74.9%, which is better the UK’s other constituent nations.

But at 5.4%, the unemployment rate in Scotland is above the UK’s rate of 5.1%.

Scotland’s Jobs Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “The Scottish economy, like that of the UK, is continuing to feel the effect of headwinds such as a slowdown in global demand – a situation exacerbated by the continuing low price of oil and the effect this is having on the industry and its supply chain.

“Nevertheless, these figures indicate strong resilience within the Scottish economy and we will continue to channel every power at our disposal into promoting inclusive economic growth and fair work, increasing employment, lowering unemployment and removing any barriers to the jobs market which may remain.”

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said: “We know that there is more to do, especially with the serious challenge posed by the fall in the oil price and the effect that will have on the north east of Scotland and the wider Scottish economy.

“We will continue to work hard to deal with these challenges and the significant risks to our economy from uncertainties abroad.”