The latest labour market data published today provide further evidence of improvement. Employment rose by 47,000 in February - April compared to the November - January quarter, and unemployment fell by 6,000 to 194,000, a rate of 7.1%. The numbers inactive also fell by 37,000, suggesting that people may be coming back into the labour market.
Over the year, jobs rose by 43,000, unemployment fell by 25,000 but the numbers inactive remained unchanged.
The UK also experienced a rise in employment of 25,000 and a fall in unemployment of 5,000. But the numbers inactive rose by 40,000. Given the relative size of the two economies, the improvement was clearly greater in Scotland in the quarter than the UK.
But as I noted here I suspect that some of the recent stronger jobs and unemployment performance in Scotland could be an unwinding of the effects of the large loss of jobs here between the fourth quarter 2009 and first quarter 2010. GDP performance in Scotland and the UK is very similar, if a little weaker, as shown by the Fraser of Allander Institute's Economic Commentary which we published today - see my blog and here.
The latest figures on employment for Scotland are shown in the chart below
Employment in Scotland in Scotland is now -0.8% below its pre-recession peak. But this is still a weaker performance in the recovery than the UK where jobs are now +0.6% above their pre-recession peak.
We should also note that jobs growth does not necessarily mean a net growth in the demand for labour services. Part-time and self-employment have been rising while full-time employment has been falling. Against this background it is encouraging to see that in the latest release the total number of hours worked in Scotland rose from 77 million to 78 million. And average hours worked rose across all types of employment: full-time, part-time and self-employed. Although, the new data refer to the year Jan 2012 - Dec 2012.
One implication of the large fall in the numbers inactive in the present quarter is that the gap between my estimate of 'real' unemployment and measured unemployment has fallen markedly - see here - as this chart shows.
Finally, the surge in employment in Scotland has improved the employment population ratio as this chart shows:
But even so at -3.5% below the pre-recession peak the size of labour reserves in Scotland, and the extent of human misery at not having a suitable job, clearly still remains large.