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Statistical bulletin: Public Sector Employment, Q1 2013 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 12 June 2013 Download PDF

In Q1 2013

  • total UK public sector employment continued to decrease, by 22,000 to 5.697 million.
  • employment in UK local government, at 2.497 million, is 26,000 lower than at Q4 2012.
  • employment in UK central government, at 2.734 million, is 13,000 higher than at Q4 2012.
  • employment in UK public corporations, at 466,000, is 9,000 lower than at Q4 2012.
  • private sector employment increased by an estimated 46,000, to 24.059 million.
  • total UK public sector employment is estimated to be 112,000 lower than at Q1 2012, once the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have been removed.
  • total UK private sector employment is estimated to be 544,000 higher than at Q1 2012 estimate, once the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have been removed.

In this bulletin

This bulletin contains detailed public sector employment estimates, including new estimates for Q1 2013. For most sources that contribute to these statistics, the employment is reported for a specific day in March 2013. The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations as defined for the UK National Accounts.

Estimates of public sector employment are provided on a headcount and full-time equivalent (FTE) basis for sectors and industries, and also by region on a headcount basis only. In addition, Civil Service employment is provided by government department and agency. Employment in Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) has been aggregated by sponsoring department.

Since 2009, some financial institutions have been classified to the public sector. English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have been classified to the private sector with effect from 1 April 2012. Estimates of public sector employment both including and excluding financial institutions, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have also been provided.

Estimates of private sector employment are provided. These are derived as the difference between Labour Force Survey estimates of employment in the whole economy and the public sector estimates collected from public sector organisations.

As part of this release, revisions have been made to the series in line with the revisions policy for Public Sector Employment Statistics (see background note 3).

The main uses of these statistics are in monitoring changes in the number of people employed in the public and private sector in the UK. They are the official measure of UK public sector employment.

Main stories

Total employment in the public sector has continued its downward trend between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, while employment in the private sector has continued to rise. There were 5.7 million people employed in the public sector at Q1 2013, around 10% lower than the peak level seen in Q3 2009. Part of this fall is due to further education and sixth form colleges in England being reclassified from the public sector to the private sector in April 2012. When the impact of the reclassification is removed total public sector employment has fallen 7.5% compared with Q3 2009.

The number of people employed in the private sector in March 2013 is estimated to be 24.1 million, the highest level since the start of the series in 1999. Around four in five people who are working are employed in the private sector.

There were falls in employment in local government, public corporations and the Civil Service, but an increase in employment in central government. Part of the fall in local government employment and increase in central government employment can be explained by schools in England becoming academies. When a school becomes an academy its classification transfers from local government to central government. The fall in Civil Service employment is dominated by reductions in employment in the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Public sector employment in the National Health Service increased slightly between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013 to 1.57 million, while employment in public sector education fell slightly to 1.47 million. Employment in public sector education has fallen 13% compared with Q1 2012 due, in part, to the reclassification of further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in England.

Public Sector Employment by Sector Classification

Figure 1: UK Public Sector Employment, Q1 1999 to Q1 2013

Figure 1: UK Public Sector Employment, Q1 1999 to Q1 2013
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc and Lloyds Banking Group plc are classified to the public sector from 13 October 2008. They are therefore included in the public sector estimates from 2008 Q4 onwards but not earlier periods. Further details on financial institutions classified to the public sector can be found in background note 8.
  2. English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations classified to public sector from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in public sector estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, but not in subsequent quarters. See background note 9.

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Total UK Public Sector Employment

At Q1 2013, total UK public sector employment (PSE) was 5.697 million on a headcount basis, and 4.678 million on a full-time equivalents (FTE) basis. This was a decrease of 22,000 (0.4%) headcount, and of 25,000 (0.5%) FTE, compared with Q4 2012.

In Q2 2012, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations were reclassified from the public sector to the private sector (see background note 9 for further details). This resulted in the movement, from the public sector to the private sector, of an estimated employment (on a headcount basis) of 196,000. A series of employment in publicly owned English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations can be found in Table 5a of the Public Sector Employment Reference Tables (679.5 Kb Excel sheet) . A series of public sector employment which excludes the impact of this reclassification can also be found in Table 5a.

When the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form colleges corporations have been removed, in the year to Q1 2013 total UK public sector employment fell by 112,000 headcount (1.9%).

Total UK PSE reached its highest level of 6.365 million in Q3 2009. When the effects of the reclassification of the English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have been removed, the total UK PSE headcount fell by 463,000 between Q3 2009 and Q1 2013.

UK Public Corporations

At Q1 2013, employment in UK public corporations had fallen when compared with Q4 2012, by 9,000 (1.9%) on a headcount basis and by 9,000 (2.0%) on a FTE basis. This is partially due to the transfer of some public corporations to the private sector. The Q1 2013 levels of headcount (466,000) and FTE (431,000) are the lowest since Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland became part of the public sector in Q4 2008.

In the year to Q1 2013, the headcount in UK public corporations fell by 26,000 (5.3%) and the FTE by 23,000 (5.1%). Again, this is partially accounted for by the transfer of a number of organisations to the private sector.

Civil Service

At Q1 2013, Civil Service employment was 449,000 on a headcount basis and 414,000 on a FTE basis. These are the lowest levels in the Civil Service series, which date back to Q1 1999.

When compared with Q4 2012, the Q1 2013 headcount had decreased by 2,000 (0.4%), and the FTE by 3,000 (0.7%). Civil Service employment has been on a downward trend since Q2 2005, when it was at its highest level of 571,000.

Figure 2: UK Public Sector Employment in Local and Central Government, Q1 1999 to Q1 2013

Figure 2: UK Public Sector Employment in Local and Central Government, Q1 1999 to Q1 2013
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. The Academies Act 2010 was passed in July 2010. This has resulted in local authority maintained schools taking on academy status. Local authority maintained schools are classified to local government, and academies to central government. As a result, when a local authority maintained school takes on academy status, its employment moves from local to central government.
  2. English further education colleges classified to central government from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in central government estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, but not in subsequent quarters. See background note 9.
  3. English sixth form college corporations classified to local government from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in local government estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, but not in subsequent quarters. See background note 9.

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Factors Affecting Employment in Local and Central Government

There is currently an ongoing shift of employment from local government to central government, as a result of local authority maintained schools converting to academy status. Academies are classified to central government, whereas local authority maintained schools are classified to local government. As a result, whenever a local authority maintained school becomes an academy, its employees move from local government to central government. 

Between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, a headcount of approximately 10,000, and a FTE of approximately 8,000, transferred from local government to central government due to academy conversions. In the year to Q1 2013 this caused a headcount of approximately 66,000, and FTE of approximately 50,000, to shift from local to central government.

In Q2 2012, the reclassification of English further education colleges resulted in the transfer of employees from the central government to the private sector, with an approximate headcount of 176,000. At the same time the reclassification of English sixth form college corporations resulted in the transfer from local government to the private sector of employees with an approximate headcount of 20,000.

Local Government

At Q1 2013, employment in local government had fallen when compared with Q4 2012, by 26,000 (1.0%) on a headcount basis, and by 27,000 (1.4%) on a FTE basis. This was partly due to decreases in employment in English local authorities (primarily caused by academy conversions).

In the year to Q1 2013 local government employment fell on a headcount basis by 153,000 (5.8%) and on a FTE basis by 110,000 (5.5%). This was partly due to academy conversions during the period, and the reclassification in Q2 2012 of English sixth form colleges to the private sector.

Central Government

At Q1 2013, employment in central government had risen when compared with Q4 2012, by 13,000 (0.5%) on a headcount basis, and by 11,000 (0.5%) on a FTE basis. This was primarily caused by academy conversions, with a 4,000 headcount rise in NHS employment also contributing.

The Q1 2013 central government headcount estimate was 129,000 (4.5%) lower, and the FTE estimate 82,000 (3.3%) lower, than the respective estimates at Q1 2012. This can be explained by the reclassification in Q2 2012 of English further education colleges to the private sector, with academy conversions partially negating the effects. When these effects are removed the central government headcount decreased by approximately 19,000 in the year to Q1 2013.

Public Sector Employment by Industry

Since Q2 2012, the NHS has been the industry employing the largest number of public sector workers. At Q1 2013 the NHS accounted for around 27.5% of all public sector employment. Prior to Q2 2012 public sector education employed the largest number of public sector workers. The change occurred due to the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations to the private sector in Q2 2012, which reduced the public sector education estimates by an approximate headcount of 196,000, and full-time equivalent (FTE) of 131,000.

Figure 3: UK Public Sector Employment by Industry

Figure 3: UK Public Sector Employment by Industry
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc and Lloyds Banking Group plc are classified to the public sector from 13 October 2008. They are therefore included in the public sector estimates from 2008 Q4 onwards but not earlier periods. Further details on financial institutions classified to the public sector can be found in background note 8.
  2. English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations classified to public sector from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in public sector estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, but not in subsequent quarters. See background note 9.

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NHS

Employment in the NHS increased between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, by 4,000 (0.3%) on a headcount basis and by 5,000 (0.4%) on a FTE basis. This was the largest increase in any industry over the period, and follows on from increases of 9,000 on both a headcount and FTE basis between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012.

In the year to Q1 2013, NHS employment rose by 5,000 (0.3%) on a headcount basis, and by 8,000 (0.6%) on a FTE basis. The NHS was the only industry to show an increase in employment in the year to Q1 2013.

Education

Employment in public sector education decreased between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, by 4,000 (0.3%) on a headcount basis, and by 5,000 (0.5%) on a FTE basis. This was the second largest decrease over the period.

The Q1 2013 estimate of public sector education employment was lower than the Q1 2012 estimate, by 225,000 (13.3%) on a headcount basis, and by 148,000 (12.2%) on a FTE basis. This was mainly due to the reclassification of the English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations. With the effects of the reclassification removed, employment in public sector education fell in the year to Q1 2013, by 29,000 on a headcount basis, and by 17,000 on a FTE basis.

Public Administration

Public administration includes all administrative duties of local and central government.

Employment in public administration increased on a headcount basis by 3,000 (0.3%) between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, but fell by 1,000 (0.1%) on a FTE basis.

In the year to Q1 2013 employment in public administration decreased by 8,000 (0.7%) on a headcount basis, and by 8,000 (0.9%) on a FTE basis. Employment in public administration had previously shown a sharp downward trend between Q3 2009 and Q3 2012. The headcount fell by 147,000 (headcount) over this three year period.

Other Public Sector

The category 'other public sector' covers all industries that have not been specified elsewhere.

Between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, employment in the category 'other public sector' decreased by 15,000 (1.8%) on a headcount basis, and by 14,000 (2.0%) on a FTE basis. This was the largest decrease in any industry over the period. A number of organisations in these industries transferred to the private sector during Q1 2013.

In the year to Q1 2013, employment in the category 'other public sector' fell by 39,000 (4.6%) on a headcount basis, and by 34,000 (4.7%) on a FTE basis. This was the second largest decrease over the period, which becomes the largest decrease once the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have been removed from public sector education. 

Figure 4: UK Public Sector Employment by Industry

Figure 4: UK Public Sector Employment by Industry
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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Other Health and Social Work

This category covers all health and social work not covered by the NHS.

At Q1 2013 employment in 'other health and social work' had fallen when compared with Q4 2012, by 2,000 (0.7%) on a headcount basis, and by 1,000 (0.4%) on a FTE basis.

In the year to Q1 2013, employment in 'other health and social work' fell by 21,000 (6.5%) on a headcount basis, and by 15,000 (6.3%) on a FTE basis.

Police

At Q1 2013 employment in the Police had fallen when compared with Q4 2012, by 3,000 (1.1%) on a headcount basis, and by 2,000 (0.8%) on a FTE basis. At Q1 2013 employment in the Police had fallen for 13 consecutive quarters.

HM Forces

At Q1 2013, employment in HM Forces had not changed when compared with Q4 2012, having decreased for the previous 11 consecutive quarters. In the year to Q1 2013 it fell by 9,000 (4.8%) on both a headcount and FTE basis.

Construction

At Q1 2013, employment in public sector construction had fallen slightly when compared with Q4 2012, by 1,000 (2.3%) on a headcount basis. It was unchanged in the year to Q1 2013.

Employment in public sector construction followed a downward trend from the beginning of the series in Q1 1999 to Q4 2011, and has since remained at a similar level.

Public and Private Sector Employment

Private sector employment estimates are derived as the difference between total UK employment estimates sourced from the Labour Force Survey and the public sector employment estimates collected from public sector organisations.

In Q2 2012, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations were reclassified from the public sector to the private sector. This resulted in approximately 196,000 employees being reclassified to the private sector. In the Public Sector Employment Reference Tables (679.5 Kb Excel sheet) , Table 5a provides estimates of total UK public and private sector employment, with the effects of this reclassification removed. Tables 6a and 7a show, respectively, the regional public and private sector estimates with the effects of this reclassification removed.

Total UK Public and Private Sector Employment

Figure 5: UK Public and Private Sector Employment

Figure 5: UK Public and Private Sector Employment
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc and Lloyds Banking Group plc are classified to the public sector from 13 October 2008. They are therefore included in the public sector estimates from 2008 Q4 onwards but not earlier periods. Further details on financial institutions classified to the public sector can be found in background note 8.
  2. English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations classified to public sector from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in public sector estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, and in private sector estimates in subsequent quarters. See background note 9.

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In Q1 2013, total UK private sector employment had increased by 46,000 (0.2%) compared with Q4 2012. At Q1 2013 private sector employment had increased for seven consecutive quarters.

When we remove the effects of the reclassification of the English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations, total UK private sector employment in the year to Q1 2013 had increased by 544,000 (2.3%).

At Q1 2013, total UK public sector employment had fallen by 22,000 (0.4%) when compared with Q4 2012. This was the 14th consecutive quarterly decrease in public sector employment.

When we remove the effects of the reclassification of the English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations, in the year to Q1 2013 total UK public sector employment decreased by 112,000 (1.9%).

At UK level, the increase in private sector employment has been greater than the associated decrease in public sector employment for the six quarters to Q1 2013.

Public and Private Sector Employment by Region

Seasonally adjusted series are not available when public and private sector employment is split by region. Therefore any differences between quarters may be due to seasonal effects. Each series begins at Q1 2008.

Public Sector Employment by Region

Figure 6: Change in Public Sector Employment, by Region, Q1 2012 - Q1 2013

Figure 6: Change in Public Sector Employment, by Region, Q1 2012 - Q1 2013
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations classified to public sector from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in public sector estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, but not in subsequent quarters (see background note 9). Estimates of the change over the period have been provided for each region which exclude the impact of this reclassification.

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All of the Q1 2013 regional public sector employment estimates are lower than the corresponding Q1 2012 estimates. When the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations have been removed, in the year to Q1 2013 decreases in public sector employment were seen in every region.

When the effects of the reclassification have been removed, East of England (17,000; 3.8%), West Midlands (17,000; 3.5%) and East Midlands (15,000; 3.9%) showed the largest falls in public sector employment between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013. The smallest falls in public sector employment over the same period were in Northern Ireland (1,000; 0.4%) and South East (1,000; 0.2%).

Private Sector Employment by Region

Figure 7: Change in Private Sector Employment, Q1 2012 - Q1 2013

Figure 7: Change in Private Sector Employment, Q1 2012 - Q1 2013
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey, Labour Force Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. For analysis purposes, employment in publicly owned further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in England is included in the private sector estimates used to calculate the changes between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013 in this series. Further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in England are classified to the public sector from 1993 to 31 March 2012 and to the private sector from 1 April 2012. See background note 9 for details.

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East of England was the only region for which the Q1 2013 private sector employment estimate is not greater than the corresponding Q1 2012 estimate (it is 6,000 lower). When the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges have been removed, private sector employment decreased in both East of England (25,000; 1.2%) and North East (1,000; 0.1%).

Private sector employment increased between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013 in all other regions. The increase in London (201,000; 5.7%) was almost triple the size of the next largest increase, seen in Yorkshire and The Humber (74,000; 4.0%).

Proportion of Total Employment Employed by the Public Sector

Figure 8: Proportion of Total Employment Employed in the Public Sector, by Region, Q1 2013

Figure 8: Proportion of Total Employment Employed in the Public Sector, by Region, Q1 2013
Source: Labour Force Survey, Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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The regions with the highest proportions of their total employment in the public sector were Northern Ireland (28.1%), Wales (25.6%) and Scotland (23.2%).

North East (22.7%) and Yorkshire and The Humber (20.7%) were the English regions with the highest proportion of their total employment in the public sector, with London (16.6%), East of England (16.7%) and South East (16.7%) having the lowest proportion.

Employment in the Civil Service and in Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs)

Civil Service

At Q1 2013, employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain had decreased when compared with Q4 2012, by 2,670 on a headcount basis, and by 2,760 on a full-time equivalents (FTE) basis. This was dominated by decreases across the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence. Between them, employment in Civil Service organisations sponsored by these bodies decreased by 3,190 on a headcount basis and by 3,150 on a FTE basis.

Between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, smaller decreases were reported across the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Employment across the Home Office increased by 260 on a headcount basis, and by 180 on a FTE basis. This was mainly caused by the Identity and Passport Service, which reported an increase of 200 on a headcount basis and 140 on a FTE basis. Although the employment in Home Office (excluding agencies) also increased, this was mainly due to the transfer in of approximately 240 staff from the UK Border Agency following the establishment of the Enforcement and Crime Group.

Between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, smaller increases were also reported across Scottish Government and HM Revenue and Customs.

Executive NDPBs

Note that employees of Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office have not been included in any estimates, as this would give the estimates the potential to be disclosive. Employment in Executive NDPBs has been aggregated by sponsoring department.

Between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, employment across all Executive NDPBs increased by 450 on a headcount basis and by 340 on a FTE basis. The only sponsoring departments that did not show increases in headcount across their respective Executive NDPBs were the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The FTE in Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport decreased slightly over the period.

Background notes

  1. Basic Quality Information

    In 2005 the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in collaboration with other government departments and the devolved administrations, implemented major improvements to public sector employment (PSE) estimates. Standard definitions for public sector employment across all departmental statistics were agreed and a single definitive set of quarterly PSE estimates introduced. A new Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES) was established. ONS publishes official PSE estimates each quarter as National Statistics, in the form of a Statistical Bulletin, approximately 11 weeks after the period to which they refer.

    Further details can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information for Public Sector Employment (115.9 Kb Pdf) article.

  2. Relevance to Users

    The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations as defined for the UK National Accounts. ONS produces the United Kingdom’s National Accounts. The National Accounts are an internationally comparable accounting framework that describes the activities in a national economy. The relevant international manuals are the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93) and the European System of Accounts 1995 (ESA95). As part of the process of producing the National Accounts, ONS decides on the classification of institutions and transactions within the economy using the current UK classification process (81.9 Kb Pdf) .

    The Public Sector Classification Guide is published monthly by ONS, and provides information on the classification of organisations and institutions in the National Accounts.

    The public sector employment estimates relate to the number of people employed according to returns from relevant organisations, but they include a number of workers with a second job in the public sector whose main job is in the private sector or in a separate public sector organisation. The private sector estimate, which is obtained by taking the difference between the Labour Force Survey estimate of people employed in the whole economy and the public sector total, will thus tend to be correspondingly understated by a small percentage.

    Headcount estimates are based on the number of employees with an employment contract who are being paid by the organisation. Employees can be permanent, on a fixed-term contract or employed on a casual basis. Self-employed, contract workers and agency workers are excluded.

    Permanent employees, as defined in Tables 9 and 11, are employees with a contract with no agreed expiry date or a fixed term contract of more than 12 months. Temporary/casual employees are those with a fixed term contract of 12 months or less or employed on a casual basis.

    As well as the headcount estimates, estimates have also been produced for the number of employees in full-time equivalents (FTE) back to 1999. This is based on converting part-time employees’ hours into a full-time employees’ equivalent and provides a better indication of total labour input than a simple headcount.

  3. Common Pitfalls in Interpreting Series

    Estimates of public sector employment for Q4 2012 to Q1 2013 are based partly on projections for some sources. As part of the development programme to improve the quality of public sector employment estimates, public sector organisations are working towards the production of timely quarterly estimates. Until this development programme is completed, there remains a requirement to include estimates for certain sources:

    1. Police (including civilians) workforce estimates for England and Wales are published every six months (for two quarters) by the Home Office.

    2. NHS workforce statistics for England are derived from a pay system which covers all but two English NHS organisations. This produces very good estimates of staff numbers. Figures for the two other organisations are estimated based on annual NHS Workforce Census figures. This new source of estimates will reduce the need to revise estimates in the future.

    The Home Office has provided estimates for the Police in England and Wales. These estimates are based on projections and may be subject to revision.

    All time series in the Public Sector Employment release, except for the regional series, are seasonally adjusted to aid interpretation. As seasonal adjustment does not preserve additivity within aggregation structures, relationships that hold in the unadjusted series do not necessarily hold for the seasonally adjusted series. For example, total public sector employment equals the sum total of all public sector industry estimates before seasonal adjustment, but this is not necessarily true after seasonal adjustment.

    Public sector employment statistics have previously been published for periods up to and including Q4 2012. In line with the published revisions policy for public sector employment statistics (26.4 Kb Pdf) , the statistics have been revised, to take account of late information from respondents.

    Tables 1R to 5aR illustrate the size of the revisions in each category.

  4. Concepts and Definitions

    Central government includes all administrative departments of government and other central agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies, as such it is wider than the Civil Service. This sector also includes HM Forces and the National Health Service (NHS). Within education, academies and free schools are classified to central government. From 1 April 2005, central government includes the former Magistrates' Courts Service which has been brought together with the Court Service to form Her Majesty's Courts Service. The Magistrates' Courts Service was previously classified to local government.

    Local government covers those types of public administration that only cover a locality and any bodies controlled and mainly financed by them. The sub-sector includes all areas of administrative authorities including parish councils, though these units are not covered by the current estimates for local authorities. It includes police forces and their civilian staff. All functions of local authorities are classified to the sub-sector, although trading activities that produce market output (for example, housing and municipally owned markets) are regarded as quasi-corporations and appear under public corporations. Local education authorities are part of local government, as are voluntary aided schools, county schools and, from September 1999, foundation schools (formerly grant-maintained).

    Public corporations are companies or quasi-corporations controlled by government. Examples include Royal Mail and London Underground Ltd. These companies receive more than half their income from sales of goods or services into the market place (see background note 8 for details about financial institutions, for example Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland Group, classified to the public sector).

    The estimates of Civil Service employees count all home Civil Service employees (including from 1 April 2005 the employees of the former Magistrates' Courts Service). Civil Service employees can be classified to central government or public corporations. Examples of public corporations include the UK Intellectual Property Office and the Driving Standards Agency. Civil Service estimates exclude the Northern Ireland Civil Service and other Crown servants. Employees in these groups are included in estimates of central government employment.

  5. Accuracy

    Response Rates:

    PSE statistics are compiled from a range of sources. The primary source is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES). The QPSES comprises three separate data collections; the home Civil Service, Local Authorities in England and Wales and Great Britain public corporations and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). Returned questionnaires go through a series of automated validation tests to check for completeness and consistency and to identify any significant movements compared with the previous period reported (and the same period the previous year). The automated checks are followed up with respondents where errors are detected or further explanation is required. The target is to clear 95% of test failures prior to processing results. ONS targets for response to each of the three surveys ahead of compiling results are 85% (number of respondents) and 90% (of total employment). In addition, each survey has a list of critical respondents (usually those with the largest employment) for which special efforts are made to achieve 100% response and clearance of test failures.

    Table 1: Response Rates for Sources of Public Sector Employment, Q1 2013

      Response (% of questionnaires returned) Response (% of employment returned)
    Local Authorities Survey 92 94
    Public Bodies Survey 91 96
    Civil Service Survey 100 100
    Other Sources (see below) 100 100

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

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    Data for non-responders are imputed based on previous returns and known annual changes in seasonality. It is extremely rare for a local authority, public body or Civil Service department to non-respond for two consecutive quarters. The data collection is statutory for local authorities and public bodies (Statistics of Trade Act 1947) and positive action is taken to address non-response issues as and when they occur.

    So that estimates of total public sector employment can be made it is necessary for further information to be gathered from external sources.

    Table 2: External Sources of Data for Public Sector Employment Statistics

      Geographic Coverage Source
         
    Central Government
    HM Forces  UK Ministry of Defence: DASA
    National Health Service  England Information Centre for Health and Social Care (IC)
    Wales NHS Wales Informatics Service
    Scotland Scottish Government
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Academies England School Workforce Census and list of all open academies (Department of Education)
    Other Central Government Great Britain Quarterly Public Sector and Employment Survey (ONS); Probation Service and Police Strength
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Local Government
    Local Authorities England and Wales Quarterly Public Sector and Employment Survey (ONS)
    Scotland Joint Staffing Watch (Scottish Government)
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Police (including civilians) England and Wales Home Office
    Scotland Joint Staffing Watch (Scottish Government)
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Public Corporations
    Great Britain Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (ONS)
      Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

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    ONS is now able to produce regional estimates of PSE based on returns from public sector organisations (Table 6). These supersede those produced using the Labour Force Survey (LFS) which previously had been used in conjunction with national PSE estimates to produce estimates by region.

  6. Future Revisions

    Statistics for the NHS for England for Q4 2007 onwards are partly based on projections and informed modelled estimates have been supplied by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care. These estimates may be revised following the publication of the annual NHS workforce statistics.

    Statistics for the Police (including civilians) for Q4 2007 onwards for England and Wales are based partly on projections supplied by the Home Office. These estimates may be revised following the publication of the latest Home Office statistics.

    Due to ongoing validation of data from the new HM Forces Personnel Administration System, figures for Q2 2007 onwards are provisional and subject to review.

  7. Coherence

    The estimates of public sector employment in education (SIC division 85) differ from the school workforce estimates published by the Department for Education (DfE) (formerly Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)) mainly as a result of differences in coverage and data sources. DfE estimates focus on the number of FTE teachers and support staff for England only. By comparison, the ONS estimates are derived by allocating local authority employees to education using the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) and the QPSES in England and Wales. The DfE School Workforce Census school level estimates are used to estimate employment in academies in England. PSE estimates include all employees reported by local authorities as working in primary, secondary and adult education establishments including some groups who are not covered by the DfE statistics, such as adult education staff and certain categories of support staff. Employment estimates for education in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also included to give a wider UK coverage. The different coverage of the ONS and DfE education statistics serve the needs of different users. Those who require information on the workforce in England who are directly involved in pupils' teaching and learning should use DfE published statistics. Users should also refer to DfE published statistics to gauge trends in education employment. Those who seek data on UK public sector employment in education, in its widest sense, should use the ONS data in this release. For further information on the differences between DfE and ONS data on education please see pages 44 to 46 of the Public Sector Employment Trends 2005 (463 Kb Pdf) article published in October 2005.

    ONS estimates for the NHS also differ from the headline figure produced by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care (IC). Again, this reflects the wider UK coverage (IC figures are for England only) plus the exclusion by ONS of general practitioners (GPs). ONS, in accordance with National Accounts practice, classifies GPs as part of the private sector. ONS also include ‘hospital practitioners and clinical assistants’ who work in hospitals on a salaried pay scale but generally work as GPs leading the IC to exclude them from their totals to avoid double counting. When these factors are allowed for, ONS and NHS data can be shown to be identical.

    Sector classification and machinery of government changes in the period since 31 March 2012 are listed here:

    Table 3: Sector Classification and Machinery of Government Changes, 1 April 2012 - 31 March 2013

    Environment Agency Approximately 40 staff TUPE transferred from the Environment Agency to Welsh Government in Q1 2013.
    Land Registry 20 staff transferred to Ordnance Survey in Q1 2013.  
    Enforcement and Crime Group During Q1 2013 approximately 240 staff moved from Enforcement and Crime Group in the UKBA to to Home Office HQ during Q1 2013.
    Fire Service College As of 28 February 2013 the College (approx 140 staff) is no longer part of the Civil Service.
    Government Equalities Office (GEO) GEO (approx 96 FTE) transferred from Home Office HQ to Department for Culture, Media and Sport in Q1 2013.
    Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) During Q4 2012, 25 staff transferred from HMCTS to Ministry of Justice HQ.
    National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) During Q4 2012, 510 FTE transferred from the NPIA to the Home Office HQ. 
    Asset Protection Agency  Closed on 31 October 2012.  
    Criminal Record Bureau The Disclosurse and Barring Service was established on 1 December 2012 following the merger of the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
    Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) As of 31 July 2012 CMEC was subsumed into the Department for Work and Pensions.
    National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) During Q2 2012, around 200 staff transferred from NOMS to the Ministry of Justice.
    Better Regulation Delivery Office During Q2 2012, the Better Regulation Delivery Office (approx 30 staff) transferred into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
    Education Funding Agency An Executive Agency of the Department for Education, established 1 April 2012. This brings together the functions of Partnership for Schools, the Young People's Learning Agency and the maintained schools funding division of the Department for Education.
    National College The National College of School Leadership became an Executive Agency of the Department for Education on 1 April 2012. This was previously an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body.
    Teaching Agency An Executive Agency of the Department for Education, established on 1 April 2012. The Teaching Agency has taken over some of the functions of the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the General Teaching Council for England.

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

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  8. Financial Institutions Classified to the Public Sector

    On 19 February 2009, ONS announced the classification of Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Lloyds Banking Group as public corporations from 13 October 2008. To facilitate analyses of public sector employment estimates by users, the following non seasonally adjusted time-series has been created to demonstrate the full impact of recent financial corporations’ classifications to the public sector (based on Standard Industrial Classification 2007, industry 64 (Financial Intermediation)).

    Table 4: Employment in Financial Institutions Classified to the Public Sector

    not seasonally adjusted
    Period  Headcount Full-time equivalent
    Q1 2008 1 9,300 8,700
    Q2 2008 9,400 8,800
    Q3 2008 2 10,700 10,100
    Q4 2008 3 234,200 215,500
    Q1 2009 237,000 214,900
    Q2 2009 231,000 210,300
    Q3 2009 224,400 203,800
    Q4 2009 214,500 195,100
    Q1 2010 211,700 192,700
    Q2 2010 214,100 195,600
    Q3 2010 211,200 192,200
    Q4 2010 204,900 187,500
    Q1 2011 205,200 188,100
    Q2 2011 203,100 186,400
    Q3 2011 200,300 184,100
    Q4 2011 195,600 179,700
    Q1 2012 4 192,000 176,400
    Q2 2012 188,800 173,500
    Q3 2012 185,500 170,500
    Q4 2012 182,200 167,900
    Q1 2013 181,900 167,600

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Table notes:

    1. Bank of England classified as a public financial corporation on 7 February 2008 from its inception (1946). Norther Rock plc classified as a public financial corporation from 9 October 2007.
    2. Bradford and Bingley plc classified as a public financial corporation from 26 September 2008. 
    3. Lloyds Banking Group classified as a public financial corporation from 13 October 2008.  Royal Bank of Scotland Group classified as a public financial corporation from 13 October 2008. 
    4. Northern Rock plc classified as private sector following its sale to Virgin Money Holdings (UK) Ltd, on the 1 January 2012.  More information about the sale can be found on the UK Financial Investments Ltd website. 

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  9. Further Education Colleges

    On 13 October 2010, ONS announced the reclassification of further education colleges and sixth form college corporations to the public sector. ONS, as part of the Q4 2010 publication, took on employment estimates for further education colleges back to 1993 or their inception if later.

    On 31 May 2012, ONS announced the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations to the private sector, as Non-Profit Institutions Serving Households (NPISH), effective from 1 April 2012. As such, employment estimates for English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations are included in ONS estimates of public sector employment from 1993 or their inception if later, up to and including Q1 2012. English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations estimates of employment are not included in public sector employment estimates from Q2 2012 onwards. More information on this decision can be found in the Reclassification of Further Education Corporations and Sixth Form Colleges in England article published on 31 May 2012.

    Table 8 provides headcount and full-time equivalent (FTE) series for English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations, public owned financial corporations and public sector employment minus English further education colleges, sixth form colleges and publicly owned financial corporations. 

  10. The Census

    The Census is a count of the population in the UK. It takes place every 10 years and asks everyone the same questions to give a complete picture of the nation. This information is used to estimate the likely number of people and households in each area for the next 10 years. The ONS designs, manages and runs the census in England and Wales. The General Register Office Scotland (GROS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for the census in Scotland and Northern Ireland. All three agreed to conduct their 2011 censuses on the same day (27 March 2011) in order to produce consistent and coherent information that covers the whole of the UK. The Census generated approximately 40,000 temporary public sector jobs across the UK, covering a range of part-time and full-time roles.

    The number of people in public sector employment was 6.102 million at Q2 2011, a decrease of 94,000 compared with Q1 2011. The estimate for Q1 2011 includes 15,000 people employed on a temporary basis in connection with the 2011 Census, but there were only 1,000 people employed in these temporary jobs at Q2 2011. Excluding people employed in temporary Census posts, the fall in public sector employment between Q1 and Q2 2011 was 80,000.

  11. Coverage of Academies in England

    Improvements to the way employment in public sector education in England is estimated were first implemented as part of the PSE, Q3 2012 release. Revisions to the estimates caused by these improvements were at that time incorporated into the revised PSE series, in line with the revisions policy for public sector employment statistics (26.4 Kb Pdf) . Further details of the change in method and the impact on estimates of PSE are available in 'Public Sector Employment Statistics - Change in Method for Estimating Employment in Education in England', published as part of the Public Sector Employment, Q3 2012 release.

  12. Publication Policy

    The complete run of public sector employment data in the tables of this statistical bulletin is also available to view and download in other electronic formats free of charge using the ONS Time Series Data website service. Users can download the complete Public Sector Employment Time Series in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own selections of individual series.

    ONS launched its new website on 27 August 2011. The new website improves the way users can access our statistics but many existing bookmarks and links will no longer work and users will need to update them. More information can be found on our Web Development page.

    A list of those given pre-publication access to the contents of this release is available as a downloadable PDF document (33.3 Kb Pdf) .

  13. 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: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Emily Carless +44 (0)1633 455717 Office for National Statistics pse@ons.gsi.gov.uk
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