Unemployment in Fife: the best and worst figures revealed for towns across Fife

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Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average,but locally it’s at an all-time, record low. However, some areas are doing better than others.

Times are tough, but unemployment in Fife is at a record low of 3.4% - that’s according to the latest available economic data from Gordon Mole, Fife’s head of Business and Employability.

“In most parts of Fife, employment rates in 2022/23 were above the pre-pandemic 2019 levels,” a report from Mr Mole explained. “Fife’s latest unemployment rate is at a record low (3.4%) and although higher than the Scottish rate (3.2%), the gap is narrower than before the pandemic.”

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Peter Corbett, Fife’s lead officer for economy, toured the seven area committees of the Kingdom in recent weeks to present the latest economic data.

Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average (Pic: John Devlin)Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average (Pic: John Devlin)
Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average (Pic: John Devlin)

According to Mr Corbett, Fife’s unemployment rate is at a record low and the employment rate is also looking “exceptionally good.”

“The highest level of employment we’ve seen in Scotland, ever, was 76.6% and that was back in October-December 2022,” Mr Corbett told Levenmouth councillors. That’s well above the pre-pandemic rate of 73.2%. That’s even better than pre-covid and crisis times.”

> The best and worst areas in Fife:

North East Fife has taken the spotlight for the best employment rate across all of Fife’s seven regions. With St Andrews at the heart of the area, it had an 81.5% employment rate for 2023 - a massive leap from pre-pandemic figures in 2019.

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Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average,but locally it’s at an all-time, record low (Pic: Pixabay/geralt)Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average,but locally it’s at an all-time, record low (Pic: Pixabay/geralt)
Unemployment in Fife is still higher than the Scottish average,but locally it’s at an all-time, record low (Pic: Pixabay/geralt)

“The region has a very high employment rate,” Mr Corbett told the area committee. “That’s up from 66.8% pre-pandemic and it’s the highest rate in Fife. There’s a very positive picture there.”

The City of Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath regions are not far behind. Dunfermline claims a 78.8% employment rate while Cowdenbeath is at 78% rate.

A at the other end of the spectrum, Glenrothes has the title of worst in Fife for employment. Only 63.3% of the region’s working aged residents are in employment. Levenmouth has claimed the title of second worst with 71.6% - but that’s an improvement of 4.5 percentage points over the pre-covid figures.

> Unemployment in Fife

Claimant rates are closely tied to employment rates. Mr Corbett explained that they are a proxy measurement for unemployment - and they measure the number of people in Fife claiming out-of-work benefits and who are actively looking for work. When looking at claimant rates, the Kirkcaldy area takes home the title for worst in Fife.

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“The Kirkcaldy claimant rate is the highest rate across the seven areas in Fife, and it equates to around 2000 people,” Mr Corbett told the committee. “The number is down slightly from pre-pandemic but it’s still one of greatest concerns [for the area.]”

The Levenmouth region comes second worst in Fife with a claimant rate of 4.8%. However North East Fife and South West Fife regions are both top of the list with very low claimant rates of 1.7% and 2.4% respectively.

> Why does it matter?

Gordon Mole, Fife’s head of Business and Employability, said these numbers reveal the economic realities of people living across Fife.

“The numbers pick up some of the economic realities of people living in Fife and show some of the variation in areas that matter to people,” he said.

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Crucially, he said the figures help guide the council and elected members to make the right decisions for residents. It also helps them to understand the type of support that communities need. The figures reported by Mr Mole and his team are based on a range of labour market and economic data published by external sources that include the Scottish Government and Office of National Statistics (ONS).