The Scottish Government’s record on employment has been regularly promoted by the SNP on social media.
Recently, the SNP shared a graphic claiming that youth unemployment in Scotland is lower, and youth employment is higher, than across the UK.
The party also claimed that the SNP had met its target of reducing youth unemployment by 40 per cent four years early.
— The SNP (@theSNP) April 17, 2018
Ferret Fact Service found these claims to be True.
Both the UK and Scottish Governments use data from Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Surveys (LFS) to gauge youth unemployment, including people aged 16-24.
Youth unemployment can be measured by ‘rate’ – the proportion of unemployed young people as a percentage – or by ‘level’, which is the number of unemployed young people rounded to the nearest thousand.
The Scottish Government defines the rate as the “number of unemployed individuals as a proportion of the total number of economically active people, which includes both the unemployed and those in work”.
The unemployment level is defined as “any individual aged 16 and over without a job who has been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and is available to start work within the next two weeks.”
The SNP’s graphic is referring to the rate of unemployment, rather than the overall level.
To support the claim that Scotland has a lower rate of youth unemployment compared to the UK as a whole, the Scottish Government uses the latest available LFS statistics – from December 2017 to February 2018.
Scotland’s youth unemployment rate is 9.8 per cent, lower than the 11.3 per cent rate in the UK as a whole.
The rate of youth employment in Scotland is 57.3 per cent, higher than the UK’s which sits at 53.9 per cent.
The Scottish Government states that the LFS data it has used includes young people who are in full-time education.
Economically inactive young people – those not in employment nor seeking employment – are treated as a separate category by the ONS and are not included in these statistics.
As the ONS explains, it is “a common misconception that all people in full-time education are classified as economically inactive”. In fact, people in full-time education are included in employment estimates if they have a part-time job or are seeking part-time work.
This data does not apply seasonal adjustment, which is used to remove variations caused by seasonal effects. For example, an influx of employment may be owed to the increased number of people who enter the labour market in the summer after having left full-time education, according to LFS methodology.
The ONS tends to use seasonally-adjusted data in its headline figures, while the Scottish Government does not.
However, LFS data is considered to be ‘experimental’ by the ONS due to concerns about potential sampling errors. A more robust, but less regular, series is the Annual Population Survey, which shows Scotland with a 9.2 per cent youth unemployment rate in 2017 compared to 12.1 per cent across the UK.
The Scottish Government set itself the target of reducing youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021 in December 2014 as part of its youth unemployment strategy.
This required cutting the number of unemployed young people, which was 52,000 in 2014, to below 31,000 by 2021.
In October 2017, the Scottish Government announced that it had cut youth unemployment to around 27,000 in the first quarter of 2017, a 48 per cent decrease on 2014. It cited statistics from the LFS dataset of youth unemployment levels in January to March 2017.
In the 3rd Annual Progress Report of its youth unemployment strategy, the Scottish Government uses LFS datasets to show the overall decline in Scotland’s youth unemployment levels over the same three-month period from 2013 to 2017.
These stats are also not seasonally adjusted figures, and in this case exclude those in full-time education.
With a 48 per cent reduction between December 2014 – when the target was set – and the beginning of 2017, the Scottish Government surpassed its goal of reducing youth unemployment by 40 per cent as early as the first quarter of 2017. This is around four years earlier than its 2021 deadline.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: True
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the current rate of youth unemployment in Scotland is lower than the UK as a whole and that the youth employment rate is currently higher than in the UK. With a 48 per cent reduction in youth unemployment between the time it set its target in December 2014 and the beginning of 2017, the Scottish Government managed to exceed its target four years early.
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