This article presents an updated analysis of public sector employment (PSE) by region, including regional estimates of PSE by sector classification, and supercedes that produced by Matthews (2010). Since 2010, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been able to produce regional estimates of PSE based on returns from public sector organisations for Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales.
The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations, as in the UK National Accounts. The ONS is responsible for the UK National Accounts, which provide an internationally comparable accounting framework.
Estimates of PSE are produced for the United Kingdom using returns from public sector organisations. These ‘administrative-based’ estimates are produced using a combination of administrative data and estimates from surveys of public sector organisations2. For the purpose of this article, these estimates will be referred to as ‘administrative-based’, since most of the surveys approach 100 per cent in coverage. UK PSE estimates are produced at ONS and combine the Scotland3 and Northern Ireland4 administrative-based figures with administrative-based estimates for England and Wales.
Regional estimates of PSE are used for policy-related purposes and have been produced by the ONS since 2006.
This article is presented in three main parts. First, the methodology for estimating regional PSE is described. Second, an overview of regional PSE is presented in which regional PSE is analysed, by sector classification, and in comparison to the private sector. Third, a synthesis is provided, together with pointers to further research that may be undertaken to improve understanding of regional PSE in the UK.
At Q3 2011, London had the largest number of public sector employees (790,000), followed by the North West (680,000), the South East (678,000) and Scotland (589,000).
All regions showed a decrease in PSE in the year to Q3 2011, the largest falls were in the South West (37,000; -7.0 per cent), the North West (35,000; -4.8 per cent), the South East (30,000; -4.2 per cent) and London (28,000; -3.4 per cent).
England (233,000; -4.6 per cent), Scotland (23,000; -3.8 per cent), Wales (9,000; -2.8 per cent) and Northern Ireland (4,000; -1.7 per cent) all showed a decrease in PSE in the year to Q3 2011.
By contrast, England (209,000; +1.1 per cent), Northern Ireland (39,000; +7.4 per cent), Scotland (30,000; +1.6 per cent) and Wales (12,000; +1.2 per cent) all showed an increase in private sector employment during the same period.
Regional estimates of PSE are produced each quarter as part of the regular PSE statistical bulletin. The most recent publication of regional PSE estimates was Q3 20115, released on 14 December 2011.
Regional PSE statistics are derived from a range of sources. The primary source is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES)2. The QPSES comprises three separate data collections; the home Civil Service, local governments in England and Wales, and public corporations and public bodies in England, Wales and Scotland. The survey(s) aim to achieve a complete census of the relevant sectors.
The variables collected from each contributor are the number of permanent and temporary/casual employees in full and part-time jobs by gender. Information is requested on both a headcount and full-time equivalent basis and data are requested in line with agreed standard definitions. Each quarter, returned QPSES files are run through Common Software; an in-house ONS-supported software package, and data are apportioned using the ONS’s Inter Departmental Business Register6 (based on known locations of offices) to produce regional estimates of employment, based on where people are employed, by sector classification and industry.
So that estimates of total PSE and regional PSE can be made it is necessary for further information to be gathered from external sources. ONS has worked closely with departments to develop quarterly regional estimates of PSE (Table 1). Despite this, not all external sources are able to provide a regional breakdown of employment on a quarterly basis. As such, several compromises have had to be made, for example, for the “police”, annual regional workforce estimates for England and Wales are used as a basis for quarterly regional estimation.
Over the past 6 years, ONS has been working closely with other government departments to develop regional PSE statistics directly from returns from public sector organisations, covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (Barnard (2008)7; James (2009)8; Matthews (2010)1). Whereas ONS collects some information directly from public sector organisations, as part of the QPSES, supplementary data are provided by external organisations (Table 1).
To complete the development of regional PSE estimates, ONS had to request back-data by English region from each of the external organisations (Matthews (2010)1). As not all external agencies maintain time-series data, a decision was made by ONS, in 2010, based on respondent burden and need, that a limited time-series would be constructed back to the first quarter of 2008 using the new improved methodology for regional estimation of PSE.
While these new estimates of employment, first presented by Matthews (2010)1, supersede those provided by James (2009)8 and Barnard (2008)7, strong complementarity was evident. However since the publication of the article by Matthews (2010)1, further education colleges have been classified to the public sector, serving to raise the total level of public sector employment in the UK by approximately 200,000. This now means that it is not as practical, as previously described by Matthews (2010)1, to make use of the previous estimates of employment as far back as 1999, if a longer time series than presented in this article is required.
The rest of this paper will provide updated estimates of regional PSE for the UK. Attention will first focus on total PSE by region, before analysis by sector classification and private sector employment are detailed.
In Q3 2011 London had the largest number of public sector employees (790,000), followed by the North West (680,000), the South East (678,000) and Scotland (589,000).
Compared with the same quarter a year earlier, by English region, there were decreases in PSE for all regions; for the South West (37,000; -7.0 per cent), North West (35,000; -4.8 per cent), the South East (30,000; -4.2 per cent), London (28,000; -3.4 per cent), West Midlands (27,000; -5.2 per cent), East of England (25,000; -5.4 per cent), Yorkshire and The Humber (20,000; -3.6 per cent), East Midlands (16,000; -4.1 per cent) and North East (15,000; -5.2 per cent).
England (233,000; -4.6 per cent), Scotland (23,000; -3.8 per cent), Wales (9,000; -2.8 per cent) and Northern Ieland (4,000; -1.7 per cent) all showed a decrease in PSE in the year to Q3 2011.
PSE in Great Britain decreased (265,000; -4.4 per cent), as did total PSE in the United Kingdom (276,000; -4.4 per cent (seasonally adjusted)).
In the third quarter of 2011, Northern Ireland (27.7 per cent); Wales (25.6 per cent); the North East (25.0 per cent) and Scotland (23.7 per cent) had the highest proportion of their workforce employed in the public sector (Table 3). The areas of the UK with the lowest proportion of their workforce in the public sector are the South East (17.1 per cent); East of England (17.1 per cent); London (18.5 per cent); East Midlands (19.0 per cent); and South West (19.6 per cent). In Q3 2011 all regions showed decreases in the proportion of their workforce employed in the public sector compared to the same quarter a year earlier.
In the year to 2011 Q3, PSE in the UK (seasonally adjusted) fell in all government sectors, in general government by 244,000 (-4.3 per cent), in local government by 195,000 (-6.7 per cent), in central government by 49,000 (-1.7 per cent) and in public corporations by 32,000 (-5.9 per cent). Local government employment (seasonally adjusted) at 2011 Q3 (2,720,000) constituted 45 per cent of total PSE.
The decrease in local government employment (seasonally adjusted) at 2011 Q3 compared to the same period a year earlier (195,000) accounted for 71 per cent of the total fall in PSE (276,000) over the period. However it should be noted that during this period schools adopting academy status accounted for approximately 50,000 of the total drop in local government employment, since this caused them to be reclassified from local government to central government.
Central government employment is highest in London (367,000), followed by the South East (310,000) and the North West (303,000).
Compared with the same quarter a year earlier, there were decreases in central government PSE for all regions, with approximately a 3 percentage point range. The largest proportional fall was in Scotland (-3.7 per cent) and the smallest in the East of England (-0.5 per cent).
England (34,000; -1.6 per cent), Scotland (10,000; -3.7 per cent), Northern Ireland (3,000; -1.5 per cent) and Wales (2,000; -1.4 per cent) all showed a decrease in the year to Q3 2011.
Local government employment is highest in the North West (323,000), then in the South East (321,000), London (307,000), Scotland (284,000), Yorkshire and The Humber (259,000) and the West Midlands (255,000).
Compared with the same quarter a year earlier, there were decreases in local government employment in all regions. The largest decrease was in the South West (26,000; -11.3 per cent), followed by the North West (25,000; -7.2 per cent), East of England (24,000; -9.9 per cent), West Midlands (23,000; -8.3 per cent) and the South East (20,000; -5.9 per cent).
The general government sector, in a UK context, is the sum total of central and local government employment. General government employment is highest in London (673,000), then in the South East (631,000), the North West (626,000), Scotland (533,000), Yorkshire and The Humber (492,000) and the West Midlands (463,000).
Compared with the same quarter a year earlier there were decreases in general government employment in all regions. The largest fall was in the South West (33,000; -6.8 per cent), followed by the North West (32,000; -4.9 per cent), East of England (25,000; -5.7 per cent), West Midlands (25,000; -5.1 per cent) and the South East (25,000; -3.8 per cent).
This table provides estimates of employment for public corporations by region. It shows that London (117,000) has by far the most individuals employed in public corporations, followed by Scotland (56,000), the North West (54,000), and then the South East (47,000).
Employment in public corporations has been disproportionately affected by the reclassification of the banks to the public sector (please see Matthews 20101 for further explanation). The effect of these reclassifications, as a whole, was noticeable both on total PSE estimates as well on the regional statistics.
For instance, a comparison of the first and fourth quarter PSE estimates for 2008 shows that employment within public corporations increased by 221,000 (+61 per cent), seasonally adjusted. Increases in employment in public corporations over the same period (between quarter 1 and quarter 4 2008) were most pronounced in Scotland (45,000; +180 per cent), London (43,000; +50 per cent), and the South East (36,000; +103 per cent).
Private sector employment totals are derived as the difference between Labour Force Survey9 (LFS) employment estimates for the whole economy and public sector estimates collected from public sector organisations.
In the year to 2011 Q3, private sector employment increased by 262,000 (seasonally adjusted) to 23.120 million.
Compared with the same quarter a year earlier, there were increases in private sector employment in all regions except the North East (5,000; -0.6 per cent) and the West Midlands (5,000; -0.2 per cent).
The largest increases were in the South East (44,000; +1.4 per cent), East of England (43,000; +2.0 per cent), North West (41,000; +1.7 per cent) and East Midlands (37,000; +2.4 per cent).
England (209,000; +1.1 per cent), Northern Ireland (39,000; +7.4 per cent), Scotland (30,000; +1.6 per cent) and Wales (12,000; +1.2 per cent) all showed increases in levels of private sector employment in the year to 2011 Q3.
This article provides users with a regional breakdown of PSE in the UK, based on actual returns from public sector organisations, and highlights the changing nature of regional PSE since the first quarter of 2008.
These data have highlighted, that (at Q3 2011) London is the region with the largest number of public sector employees (790,000), followed by the North West (680,000), the South East (678,000) and Scotland (589,000).
These data also present regional estimates of PSE by sector classification. Future work will attempt to provide regional estimates by broad industry classification and try to unpick the various industries that individuals in the public sector are employed within.
This article presents the best available estimates of regional PSE. Estimates of UK PSE employment are published as part of the quarterly Public Sector Employment Statistical Bulletin10.
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: email@example.com
Matthews (2010) ‘The changing face of public sector employment 1999-2009’, Economic & Labour Market Review, vol 4, no 7, pp 28-35
Information paper for Public Sector Employment
Public Sector Employment Statistical Bulletin, 2011 Q3
Barnard (2008) ‘Regional analysis of public sector employment’, Economic & Labour Market Review, vol 2, no 7, pp 31-36
James N (2009) ‘Regional analysis of public sector employment’, Economic & Labour Market Review, vol 3, no 9, pp 37-43
Labour Force Survey (LFS)
PSE Statistical Bulletin