THE number of people across the UK claiming unemployment benefit increased dramatically last month, new figures from the ONS have shown.

April, the first full month of lockdown, saw the claimant count rise by 856,500 to reach 2.1m, while over the three months to March unemployment increased by 50,000 to 1.35m.

Scotland's employment rate was slightly lower than the UK's, with 74.7% of those aged 16 to 64 (2,666,000 people) in work for the period January to March compared to 76.6%.

The unemployment rate was 4.1% (113,000 workers), higher than the 3.9% recorded for the UK as a whole.

In comparison, the previous figures for December 2019 to February 2020 indicated 2,689,000 Scots were in work while 105,000 were not.

Jamie Hepburn (below), the Scottish Government's Business, Fair Work and Skills Minister, said: "While these rates compare well against historical records, they do not reflect fully the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and how it will change over time.

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"The Job Retention Scheme will have offered some relief to many employers and employees, but I am aware many will be deeply concerned about the future of their livelihoods.

"We are acutely aware of the huge impact the lockdown measures are having on people and businesses throughout the country.

"However, these measures are vital for controlling the coronavirus outbreak, saving lives and protecting the NHS.

"The Scottish Government has already provided £2.3 billion in support to businesses and livelihoods, and we will continue to do everything in our power to support employers and employees.

"Over the coming weeks I will work closely with the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board and business community as we begin to set out clearly - and in detail - the package of support to be made available to individuals and businesses to restart our economy and to aid quick recovery from this crisis."

According to the ONS figures, Scotland's economic inactivity rate sat at 22.1% for the three-month period compared to 20.2% for the whole UK.