THE number of people in Scotland registered as unemployed – those actively looking for work – fell by 13,000 to 155,000, official figures showed yesterday.

However, thousands more working age people in Scotland are “economically inactive”, with fewer in work and an even bigger drop in those looking for work.

The unemployment rate in Scotland stood at 5.6 per cent – on par with the UK figure, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, UK unemployment in the April to June period was up 25,000 from the previous quarter to 1.85 million – the first time there have been two consecutive rises for two years.

The number of people aged 16 to 64 in employment fell by more than 11,000 to 2.61 million in the three months to June compared with the previous quarter.

Figures for the full year show that employment in Scotland rose by 28,000, unemployment fell by 19,000 and economic inactivity fell by 6,000 since June 2014.

There were 24,000 more “economically inactive” people – such as the sick and disabled, those in early retirement and jobless students – for a total of 731,000.

Average earnings fell slightly in the three months to June to £556 a week, but are 3.1 per cent higher than June 2014 with Scotland the highest-earning area of the UK outside London, the south east and east.

But the annual rise in men’s earnings (4.1 per cent) to £614 a week outstripped the rise in women’s (1.1 per cent) earnings to £474 a week.

Scotland Office Minister Lord Andrew Dunlop said yesterday: “Today’s figures show unemployment falling and wages continuing to rise well above inflation.

“This shows we are working to ensure everyone benefits from a growing economy as we build a country based on security and opportunity.

“We will continue to help businesses create jobs and support those who want to work hard and get on. The introduction of our National Living Wage will ensure work pays for everyone.”

Economically inactive people account for more than a fifth of Scotland’s working-age population (21.4 per cent), while workers comprise less than three quarters (74.1 per cent), and little more than one in 20 (5.6 per cent) are registered unemployed.

The proportion of working people in Scotland is higher than the UK average (73.4 per cent), with the same unemployment rate and a lower rate of economic activity than the UK as a whole (22.1 per cent).

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The further reduction in unemployment is good news.

“The Scottish Government must now work even harder to prevent the kinds of bumps in the road we have seen in previous months.

“A recent poll showed that people had little confidence in the SNP’s ability to manage the economy. It is now crunch time for our economy and we need a Government focussed fully on creating jobs and growth.

“A continued steady improvement in Scotland’s unemployment rate would give businesses the confidence they need to create more opportunity.”

Colin Borland, head of external affairs in Scotland at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Scotland’s army of small and medium-sized enterprises sustain every second private sector job north of the border.

“Falling joblessness is good news, but we need to get behind small business if we’re going to create jobs for the 155,000 Scots still out of work.

“Our evidence suggests small business confidence is climbing, but to take advantage of this bullishness we need to make it as easy as possible for firms to achieve growth. We need to see an extra push to ensure more Scottish public sector spending delivers for the smallest local Scottish businesses. And we need to redouble our efforts to make sure firms can hire people with the right skills.”