Scotland's Labour Market Insights: April 2024

Insights from a range of labour market data sources for Scotland, including employment, unemployment and economic inactivity estimates by protected characteristics. This release was previously named Scotland's Labour Market Overview.


Economically active: The population who are either in employment or unemployed.

Economically inactive: People not in employment and who do not meet the criteria for unemployment. This group includes:

  • those who want a job but who have not been seeking work in the last 4 weeks
  • those who want a job and are seeking work but not available to start
  • those who do not want a job

For example, students not working or seeking work and those in retirement.

Employment: There are two main ways of looking at employment: the number of people with jobs or the number of jobs. These two concepts represent different things as one person can have more than one job. The number of people in employment is measured via the Labour Force Survey and consist of those aged 16 and over. Employment measures the number of people who did at least one hour of paid work or had a job they were temporarily away from. People who do unpaid work in a family business and people on Government-supported training and employment programs are also included. This is in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition.

Unemployment: The ILO definition of unemployment covers people who are 16 years and over:

  • without a job, have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks and are available to start work in the next fortnight


  • out of work, have accepted a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks

Employment rate: The proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment.

Unemployment rate: The proportion of economically active people aged 16 and over who are employed.

Economic inactivity rate: The number of economically inactive people expressed as a percentage of the relevant population.

Sex: Sex is self-reported by respondents participating in the Annual Population Survey (APS). No documentation is asked for by the interviewer or provided by the respondent. Hence, analysis is based on 'sex' rather than 'gender'.

Disability: From 2014, the definition of disability is based on the 2010 Equality Act definition. This harmonised definition is based on self-reported health conditions. A condition will have lasted 12 months or more and have a substantial impact on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The 2010 Equality Act superseded the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, for Great Britain but not Northern Ireland. The DDA was the basis of the published APS estimates prior to 2013.

Ethnicity: Estimates for white and minority ethnic groups are presented using the variables available on the Annual Population Survey data and are consistent with the ONS labour market output for labour market status by ethnic group.

Questions on ethnic group have been asked in the APS since it started in 2004. Changes made in January and April 2011 brought the questions in line with 2011 Census data. As such, a break in the series exists before 2011 and only data from 2011 onwards is included.

Currently in the APS respondents are asked “what is your ethnic group?” and are given the following options to choose from:

  • “White”
  • “Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups”
  • “Asian/Asian Scottish/Asian British”
  • “African”
  • “Caribbean or Black”
  • “Arab”
  • “Other ethnic group”

Other questions ask for more detail about respondent's ethnic group. It is important that results should be presented in as much detail as possible but this is often not possible due to the robustness of the sample. The problem of small estimates and samples can be overcome by combining categories. This is not ideal as it may hide inequalities that occur between separate ethnic groups.

For the purpose of the analysis presented here:

  • "Minority Ethnic" includes “Mixed or Multiple”; “Asian”; “African”; “Caribbean or Black”; “Arab”, and “Other ethnic groups”. It describes all ethnic groups excluding those who answered “White” to the first question.
  • “White” includes ethnic groups such as “White – Polish” and “White – Gypsy or Irish Traveller”. These ethnic groups may also suffer labour market disadvantages.

The term “Minority Ethnic” aids narrative and provides a concise terminology. The terminology used aligns with Scottish Government guidance for data collection.

Following work for the 2021 Censuses in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland’s Census 2022, and work being undertaken by ONS to transform the Labour Force Survey, the question on ethnic group will likely evolve to better represent the people living in Scotland, the United Kingdom, and other stakeholder requirements

Further information on Classifications and harmonisation is available on the ONS website.

Median earnings: The median measures the amount earned by the average employee, i.e. the level of earnings at which half the population are above and half the population are below.

Rates: Rates represent the proportion of the population or subgroup with a certain characteristic. They allow changes in the labour market to be interpreted in a wider context by accounting for changes in the population or the number of people who are economically active. Rates can be calculated for different age groups.

For headline employment, economic activity and economic inactivity, the reference population is those aged 16 to 64. For unemployment, the reference population is the active population aged 16 and over. Thus, people aged 65 and over who continue to be economically active are included in the base while those who are economically inactive will not.

Percentage point change: Percentage points are used when comparing two percentages. The abbreviation is pp. For example, if a rate was 10% and it increased to 15%, then it increased by 5 percentage points.


If you have any enquiries relating to Labour Market Statistics then please contact us at:

Telephone: 0131 244 6773

Labour Market Statistics
Office of the Chief Economic Adviser
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

We welcome any comments on both the format and content of the website, including any problems you may encounter.

You may also contact the Statistician Group Enquiries for general information.

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