1.  Key points

Argyll and Bute’s economy is predominantly service-based.  Over 87% of employee jobs in the area are provided within the service sector (Office Business Register and Employment Survey 2016).

Argyll and Bute has relatively high levels of employment in agriculture and fishing, and low levels of employment in manufacturing and finance.

Unemployment rates in Argyll and Bute are below the national average although, because of the high levels of seasonal employment in the area, rates vary according to time of year.

GVA (Gross Value Added) provides a measure of the overall economic well-being of an area.  GVA figures show that Argyll and Bute’s economy is performing less strongly that the Scottish average.

2.  Industry

Because of the rural nature of the area, the pattern of employment in Argyll and Bute is different to the Scottish average.

The proportions of people working in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors and tourism-related activities are far higher than Scottish averages.  Proportions of employment in tourism, hotels and restaurants are higher in the more rural areas than in the urban areas (table 1). 

Table 1  Employment by industry (2017)


Argyll and Bute




Agriculture, forestry & fishing8.8%3.2%
Mining, quarrying & utilities1.5%2.6%


Motor trades1.1%1.7%
Transport & storage (including postal)4.4%4.2%
Accommodation & food services11.2%7.6%
Information & communication1.0%2.7%
Financial & insurance0.5%3.2%
Professional, scientific & technical3.8%6.9%
Business administration & support services7.5%7.6%
Public administration & defence10.0%6.1%
Arts, entertainment, recreation & other services5.0%4.6%

(Source: Business Register Employment Survey 2017) 

Economies with a high dependence on seasonal industries, such as tourism, agriculture, forestry and fishing, face many challenges. Workers may be presented with only a small window of time to make their income for the entire year. As a result, some people will take multiple jobs during the summer period to maximize their income.  Alternatively, workers look for other jobs when the “season” is over.  Many opt to commute to other areas to seek employment and reap the benefits of higher earnings.   These types of economies are unstable as the impact of the weather plays an important role in tourism, farming and fishing, and can make or break a season.

Although tourism is clearly important to the local economy, quantifying this is not easy.   Nonetheless, the following figures give some hint as to the contribution that tourism makes.

The Visitor Attraction Monitor provides information about the numbers of visits made to paid and free attractions across Scotland.  In 2017, over 1,206,515 visits were made to the 35 attractions within Argyll and Bute for which information was recorded (Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development 2017). 

The Visitor Attraction Monitor figures show the combined total of visits made to the attractions listed rather than the number of individuals visiting the area.  People who visit the area but who do not visit these attractions will not be recorded by this data.  People who visit more than one attraction will be double-counted.  Not all attractions in the area are included in the Visitor Attraction Monitor.

3. Employment

3.1  Economically Active and Inactive Populations

In 2017 there were 52,300 people of working age (males and females aged 16-64) in Argyll and Bute.  Of these, 77.4% (41,100) were economically active.  This proportion is lower than the Scottish average of 77.5% (NOMIS, Labour Market Profile - Argyll and Bute 2017).

People are described as economically active if they are either in employment or unemployed.  In turn, unemployed people are those who do not have a job but who are looking for work, waiting to start a job, and who would be available to start work within two weeks of an interview.  Economically inactivity covers groups such as people looking after the family home or the retired.

Within Argyll and Bute, economic activity rates run at 83.1% for men and 71.7% for women, compared to 81.6% and 73.5% respectively across Scotland as a whole.  Within this group, the majority of workers (62.9%) were employees.  Nonetheless, rates of self-employment (12.2%) are noticeably higher than the Scottish average (8.2%) (figure 1).  

Figure 1


(Source: ONS Annual Population Survey (January 2018 - December 2018) (NOMIS, July 2019))
† percentages for each category of activity relate to the total working age population (16-64)
§Model-based unemployed – percentages are for those aged 16 and over.  Model-based unemployed figures include working-age students who may not be actively seeking employment.

Within the economically inactive group, 22.0% of people would like to get a job (figure 2).  This compares to a Scottish average of 23.7% (ONS Annual Population Survey Jan 2017 - Dec 2017).  (Economically inactive people who would like to work are not classified as unemployed because they either had not actively been looking for work in the four weeks prior to the data being collected or they were not available for work.)

3.2  Working patterns

The incidence of part-time working is higher in Argyll and Bute than across Scotland as a whole (figure 2).  Part-time employment is affected by seasonal changes as many of these jobs are tourism-related.  There is also a higher than average rate of seasonal employment more generally within the Council area.

Figure 2

employee jobs figure 2 2018

(Source: ONS Business Register and Employment Survey (2017) (NOMIS, July 2019))

3.3  Occupations

According to the ONS Annual Population Survey (Jan 2018 - Dec 2018) Argyll and Bute had a higher proportion of managers and senior officials than Scotland as a whole. Figures show that Argyll and Bute has 10.0% of managers, directors and senior officials amongst its workforce than the Scottish average of 8.7%.  There is a suggestion that the high level of self-employment in the area impacted on these figures because proprietary workers in small businesses are classified as managers.

A relatively high proportion of employment in skilled trades (16.4% in Argyll and Bute (ONS Annual Population Survey (Jan 2018 - Dec 2018) is driven by the agricultural sector.  The proportion of people employed as process, plant and machine operatives is low (6.4% in Argyll and Bute), in line with the low proportion of people employed in manufacturing.

The relative high percentages of associate professional and technical jobs in the Commuter Belt identified in the Census result from the presence the naval base at Faslane, as service men and women fall into this group.

3.4  Income and Earnings

According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) (NOMIS, April 2018), in April 2018 the average full-time worker in Argyll and Bute earned £561.50 per week (earnings by work place) (table 2).

The ASHE also records earnings according to workers’ places of residence.  According to the latter, it suggests that Argyll and Bute’s full-time residents earned on average £482.40 per week, lower than the average for Scotland (table 3).

Table 2: Earnings by workplace (2018)

 Argyll and Bute (£)Scotland (£)Great Britain (£)
Gross weekly pay   
Full-time workers561.50563.20570.90
Male full-time workers626.30598.90611.80
Female full-time workers485.50516.20509.80
Hourly pay   
Full-time workers13.7714.3814.40
Male full-time workers13.9414.8115.00
Female full-time workers12.9413.9513.57

(Source: ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings workplace analysis (NOMIS, April 2018).  Note: figures are median earnings for employees working in the area.)

Table 3:  Earnings by Residence (2017)

 Argyll and Bute (£)Scotland (£)Great Britain (£)
Gross weekly pay   
Full-time workers482.40562.70571.1
Male full-time workers493.9599.0612.20
Female full-time workers468.70515.40510.0
Hourly pay   
Full-time workers12.7914.3014.36
Male full-time workers12.7014.6614.89
Female full-time workers13.2313.8413.56

(Source: ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings - Resident Analysis (2018) (NOMIS, July 2019)

3.5  Unemployment and Employment Benefit Claim Rates

Under Universal Credit a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than under Job Seeker's Allowance. As Universal Credit is rolled out in particular areas, the number of people recorded as being on the Claimant Count is therefore likely to rise. Numbers of claimants in Argyll and Bute in March 2018 (table 4) suggest that levels of unemployment within the area are slightly lower than the Scottish averages.

Inevitably, seasonality impacts on employment patterns and unemployment within the area.  As many jobs stop for the winter season, spikes in unemployment rates and benefit claims occur. 

Table 4: Claimant count (March 2018)

 Argyll and Bute (numbers)Argyll and Bute (%)Scotland (%)Great Britain (%)
All people1,3602.63.12.7



(Source: ONS claimant count with rates and proportions (NOMIS, May 2019)


Table 5:  JSA claimants by age and duration (April 2012)

 Argyll and Bute (numbers)Argyll and Bute (% of all JSA claimants)Scotland (% of all JSA claimants)
By age of claimant   
Aged 18-2446025.128.5
Aged 25-4992050.254.7
Aged 50 and over44524.316.1
By duration of claim   
Up to 6 months90549.854.4
Over 6 and up to 12 months44524.321.4
Over 12 months47526.024.2

(Source: ONS claimant count age and duration (NOMIS; May 2012))    Note: % is a proportion of all JSA claimants

4.  Gross Value Added (GVA)

GVA is a measure of the value produced by goods and services and is used to measure the overall economic well-being of an area.  GVA figures are not available for the Argyll and Bute Council area.  Instead, estimates are produced for NUTS3 areas, which relate to the boundaries of the enterprise companies.

The closest area to Argyll and Bute for which GVA data is available is ‘Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Arran and Cumbrae and Argyll and Bute’.  This area excludes Helensburgh and Lomond, which is part of the ‘East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh and Lomond’ area, and includes some areas outwith the Council’s boundaries.

As figure 3 shows, GVA in both Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Arran and Cumbrae and Argyll and Bute, and East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh and Lomond is lower than the Scottish average.  In turn, the Scottish average is lower than that of the UK.

Figure 3:

Workplace GVA per head NUTS 3

(Source: ONS, 2014)

Data verified: May 2018