Key facts about Argyll and Bute's Economy.

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 2018).

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.

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). 

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 2018 there were 51,300 people of working age (males and females aged 16-64) in Argyll and Bute.  Of these, 75.3% (40,200) were economically active.  This proportion is lower than the Scottish average of 77.9% (NOMIS, Labour Market Profile - Argyll and Bute 2018).

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 80.1% for men and 70.4% for women, compared to 81.4% and 74.5% respectively across Scotland as a whole.  Within this group, the majority of workers (58.8%) were employees.  Nonetheless, rates of self-employment (13.2%) are noticeably higher than the Scottish average (8.7%) (figure 1).  

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.


3.3  Occupations

According to the ONS Annual Population Survey (July 2018 - June 2019) Argyll and Bute had a higher proportion of managers and senior officials than Scotland as a whole. Figures show that Argyll and Bute has 10.2% of managers, directors and senior officials amongst its workforce than the Scottish average of 9.1%.  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 (14.3% in Argyll and Bute (ONS Annual Population Survey (July 2019 - June 2019) 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).

3.5  Unemployment and Employment Benefit Claim Rates

Numbers of claimants in Argyll and Bute in 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. 


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