Official figures showing less joblessness and a rise in employment across Scotland were of little comfort for Business Minister Jamie Hepburn yesterday.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealed a drop of 4,000 to 96,000 people unemployed north of the border in the three months to January, while the number of those in work grew by 31,000 to around 2.7 million.
But coronavirus will inevitably impact on jobs, Mr Hepburn said, adding: “The Covid-19 outbreak is an emerging situation for the whole country and will impact on our labour market.
“The Scottish Government is focused on ensuring workers get as much support as possible from employers and government during this uncertain period.”
Ann Dowd, work team coach leader at JobCentre Plus in Inverness, said new measures were being put in place across the UK to help those claiming benefits.
She added: “We understand people who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support, and quickly.
“Those affected will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.”
The UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions is advising people who think they have been infected, or have been in close contact with someone who has, not to delay making a claim for Universal Credit.
“You should stay at home and apply at the earliest opportunity,” Ms Dowd added.
Scotland’s unemployment rate of 3.5% for November-January was lower than the 3.9% recorded for the UK as a whole.
Nearly three-quarters (74.9%) of the working-age population had jobs north of the border, compared with a UK-wide figure of 76.5%.
The number of people in work across the UK grew by 183,000 to 32.99m in the quarter, while unemployment rose by 5,000 to 1.34m, ONS said.
ONS said there was also a return to wage growth, with average earnings increasing by 3.1% in January.
Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at the EY Item Club, said: “The latest jobs data indicate that the UK labour market was robust at the start of 2020 before coronavirus started to become a factor.”