MORE Scots may now be employed by companies than there were before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, employment minister Richard Lochhead said.

He told how “early estimates” from HM Revenue and Customs show that in December 2021 there were 2.42 million employees in Scotland – some 22,000 more than there were in February 2020.

He made the comment as the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed 2,671,00 people aged 16 and over were in work in the period September to November last year – an increase of 30,000 from the previous three months.

The employment rate of 75.1% of all those aged 16 to 64 was slightly lower than the UK figure, of 75.5%.

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But Scotland’s unemployment rate was lower, at 3.6%, compared to 4.1% for the UK as a whole.

A total of 100,000 Scots were unemployed in September to November, according to the ONS figures, a decrease of 21,000 from the previous quarter.

Lochhead said: “For September to November 2021, Scotland’s estimated employment rate rose over the quarter to 75.1% while the estimated unemployment rate fell to 3.6%.

“Separate HMRC early estimates show (there were) 2.42m employees in Scotland in December 2021, 22,000 more than in February 2020, prior to the pandemic.”

The minister continued: “We are all too aware of the continuing impact and economic uncertainty that Covid is having and that is why we are doing all we can to limit the spread of the virus and mitigate the effects it has on our economy.

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“The 2022-23 Scottish Budget invests an additional £68.3m in employability and training to help businesses address skills shortages and create high quality, sustainable jobs.

“Spending in this area is targeted at all sectors and social groups, including people currently furthest from employment, so that everyone and every region can benefit from Scotland’s economic transformation.”

Lochhead added: “To accelerate the potential of digital technology, £192m is allocated to improve connectivity and boost the digital economy, including specific support for small and medium-sized businesses.”