“For several months employers I've been talking to in cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee have been increasingly optimistic about jobs,” says Peter Gillespie, Managing Director of Search.co.uk.
“Their feelings were confirmed in the middle of December by figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that unemployment fell in Scotland by 2,000 in the three months from August to October – despite the jobless figures continuing to rise for the rest of the UK.”
Gillespie says that while this does not represent a boom in Scottish jobs, it does seem to suggest that a recovery in demand for staff – although fragile – is on its way. Also that there are some areas of the Scottish economy where there are definite grounds for optimism.
The financial services sector, which a year ago appeared to be in meltdown, is quietly recovering. The large banks did shed staff and, while there may be more redundancies to come, there was also considerable growth in the form of Tesco Bank, Virgin Money, BN Paribas and Esure insurance.
“Although some major institutions suffered catastrophic problems with the credit crunch, the need for financial services in general hasn't disappeared. Individuals and companies still need insurance, banking, loans, pensions, savings and investment services. The institutions may have changed but the accountancy & finance jobs are still there,” says Gillespie.
The strength of the Scottish manufacturing sector has also surprised many commentators. As early as July firms in CBI Scotland's quarterly survey were bullish about their prospects, while by October they were talking about their order books filling up.
This resurgence in manufacturing appears to be largely driven by overseas sales. The latest Lloyds TSB Scotland Business Monitor, which surveys over 400 companies, found expectations for export activity rising to their highest level for four and a half years. Manufacturers are benefiting from the weakness of the pound which helps make Scottish products very competitive in overseas markets, and it's helping other parts of the economy too.
Tourists from overseas are discovering their Euros, dollars and yen go much further, while visitors from south of the Border find their spending isn't quite as squeezed as it is when they take their holidays in Continental Europe and the USA.
It's impossible to exaggerate the importance of tourism to the Scottish economy. It brings in around £4 billion a year and creates around 200,000 jobs in Scotland.
Much of the growth in the Scottish hospitality industry has been at the upper end of the market. Five-star visitors expect professional service and the pay, training and standard of staff reflects this.
Finally, if proof were needed of the resilience of the Scottish economy, the whisky industry was reporting growth at the end of 2009 with over 800 million bottles being shipped abroad between January and September. Bringing in well over £2 billion this represents about 20% of Scotland's manufactured exports. There's a success everybody can drink to.