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Statistical bulletin: Public Sector Employment, Q4 2013 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 19 March 2014 Download PDF

In Q4 2013

  • total UK public sector employment decreased by 159,000 to 5.507 million - the fall almost entirely explained by the reclassification from the public sector to the private sector of Royal Mail plc.
  • employment in UK local government, at 2.389 million, is 25,000 lower than at Q3 2013.
  • employment in UK central government, at 2.834 million, is 17,000 higher than at Q3 2013.
  • employment in UK public corporations, at 284,000, is 151,000 lower than at Q3 2013.
  • private sector employment increased by 264,000, to 24.684 million - boosted by the transfer into the private sector of Royal Mail plc.
  • total UK public sector employment is 203,000 lower than at Q4 2012.
  • total UK private sector employment is 662,000 higher than at Q4 2012.

In this bulletin

These figures have been updated to take on board the reclassification of the National Crime Agency into the Civil Service from Q4 2013.

This bulletin contains detailed public sector employment estimates, including new estimates for Q4 2013. For most sources that contribute to these statistics, the employment is reported for a specific day in December 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 excluding effects of major reclassifications 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 (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 decreased during Q4 2013, with employment in the private sector continuing to rise. There were 5.5 million people employed in the public sector at Q4 2013, just under 13.2% lower than the peak level seen in Q3 2009. Part of the reason for this fall is the reclassification of further education and sixth form colleges in England from the public sector to the private sector in April 2012.

In the fourth quarter 2013 Royal Mail plc was reclassified from the public sector into the private sector.

The number of people employed in the private sector in Q4 2013 is estimated to be 24.7 million. Around four in five people who are working are employed in the private sector.

There was a fall in employment in local government and increase in central government employment, which can still be attributed to schools in England continuing to become academies. When a school becomes an academy its classification transfers from local government to central government. Employment in public corporations decreased significantly, due to the reclassification of Royal Mail from the public sector to the private sector. Employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain decreased mainly due to reductions in employment in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice, which more than offset an increase from the inclusion of the National Crime Agency into the Civil Service.

Public Sector Employment by Sector Classification

Total UK Public Sector Employment

Figure 1: Total UK Public Sector Employment, Q1 1999 to Q4 2013, seasonally adjusted

Figure 1: Total UK Public Sector Employment, Q1 1999 to Q4 2013, seasonally adjusted
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.
  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 8.
  3. Royal Mail plc was reclassified from the public sector to the private sector from October 2013.

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At Q4 2013, total UK public sector employment (PSE) was 5.507 million on a headcount basis, and 4.516 million on a full-time equivalents (FTE) basis. This represents a fall of 159,000 (2.8%) headcount, and of 143,000 (3.1%) FTE, on the previous quarter.

In the year to Q4 2013 UK PSE fell by 203,000 headcount (3.6%) and 179,000 FTE (3.8%).

This significant decrease is almost entirely explained by the reclassification of Royal Mail plc from the public sector into the private sector in the fourth quarter.

Without the effects of the major reclassifications, public sector employment would have fallen by 13,000 on the previous quarter and by 14,000 on the same quarter a year ago, both on a headcount basis.

Figure 1 shows how total UK PSE has fallen each quarter from 2009 Q3 except for a flat movement into 2013 Q3.

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 8 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.   

Figure 2: UK Public Sector Employment in Civil Service and Public Corporations, Q1 1999 to Q4 2013, seasonally adjusted

Figure 2: UK Public Sector Employment in Civil Service and Public Corporations, Q1 1999 to Q4 2013, seasonally adjusted
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.
  2. Royal Mail plc was reclassified from the public sector to the private sector from October 2013.

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UK Public Corporations

At Q4 2013, employment in UK public corporations decreased by 151,000 (34.7%) on a headcount basis when compared with Q3 2013, and decreased by 138,000 (34.4%) on a FTE basis. The decrease in Q4 is caused by the reclassification of Royal Mail into the private sector in October 2013.

In the year to Q4 2013, the headcount in UK public corporations fell by 195,000 (40.7%) and the FTE by 181,000 (40.8%).

The Q4 2013 levels of headcount (284,000) and FTE (263,000) are at their lowest recorded values (measurement has been carried out on a consistent basis since 1999).  Figure 2 charts the profile of UK public corporations employment from the start of 1999 to Q4 2013.

Civil Service

At Q4 2013, Civil Service employment was 445,000 on a headcount basis and 411,000 on a FTE basis. This is down by 2,000 on headcount and 1,000 on a FTE basis compared with Q3 2013.

In the year to Q4 2013, employment in the Civil Service has fallen by 6,000 (1.3%) on a headcount basis, and by 6,000 (1.4%) on a FTE basis. Figure 2 shows the downward trend in Civil Service employment since Q2 2005, when it was at its highest level of 571,000.

From Q4 2013 the National Crime Agency has been classified as part of the Civil Service.

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 Q3 2013 and Q4 2013, a headcount of approximately 12,500, and a FTE of approximately 9,000, transferred from local government to central government due to academy conversions. In the year to Q4 2013 this had caused a headcount of approximately 72,000, and FTE of approximately 55,000, 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.

Figure 3: UK Public Sector Employment in Local and Central Government, Q1 1999 to Q4 2013, seasonally adjusted

Figure 3: UK Public Sector Employment in Local and Central Government, Q1 1999 to Q4 2013, seasonally adjusted
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 8.
  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 8.

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Local Government

At Q4 2013, employment in local government fell when compared with Q3 2013, by 25,000 (1.0%) on a headcount basis, and by 15,000 (0.8%) on a FTE basis.

In the year to Q4 2013 local government employment fell on a headcount basis by 103,000 (4.1%) and on a FTE basis by 77,000 (4.1%). This can mostly be accounted for by academy conversions during the year, and the abolition of the regional Scottish police and fire service bodies.

The decreasing trend in local government employment since Q2 2010 can be seen in Figure 3.

Central Government

At Q4 2013, employment in central government increased when compared with Q3 2013, by 17,000 (0.6%) on a headcount basis, and by 10,000 (0.4%) on a FTE basis. This can mainly be accounted for by academy conversions.

The Q4 2013 central government headcount estimate was 95,000 (3.5%) higher, and the FTE estimate 79,000 (3.3%) higher, than the respective estimates at Q4 2012. This can again be mainly explained by academy conversions during the period, and the recent establishment of the central Scottish police and fire service bodies.

Figure 3 shows how employment in central government has steadily risen following the passing of the Academies Act 2010, once the temporary effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in Q2 2012 have been removed.

Public Sector Employment by Industry

For nearly two years, the NHS has employed the largest number of public sector workers. At Q4 2013 the NHS accounted for around 28.5% of all public sector employment. Prior to Q2 2012 public sector education employed the largest number of public sector workers. Following the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations from the public to the private sector in Q2 2012, the public sector education headcount reduced by approximately 196,000, and full-time equivalent (FTE) by approximately 131,000. Figure 4 shows the impact of this reclassification on the public sector education series, and how, at that time, it brought the level of public sector education employment below the NHS level.

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

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.
  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 8.
  3. Royal Mail plc was reclassified from the public sector to the private sector from October 2013.

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NHS

Employment in the NHS increased between Q3 2013 and Q4 2013, by 13,000 (0.8%) on a headcount basis and by 12,000 (0.9%) on a FTE basis. The increase can mostly be accounted for by increases in the NHS in England.

In the year to Q4 2013, NHS employment increased by 6,000 (0.4%) on a headcount basis, and by 9,000 (0.7%) on a FTE basis.

Education

Employment in public sector education also increased between Q3 2013 and Q4 2013, by 8,000 (0.5%) on a headcount basis, and by 7,000 (0.6%) on a FTE basis.

On a headcount basis the Q4 2013 estimate of employment in public sector education was higher than the Q4 2012 estimate, by 44,000 (3.0%). On a FTE basis the Q4 2013 estimate was 38,000 (3.5%) higher than the Q4 2012 estimate.

Figure 4 shows the significant fall in public sector education in Q2 2012, as a result of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations.

Public Administration

Public administration includes all administrative duties of local and central government.
Employment in public administration decreased between Q3 2013 and Q4 2013, by 11,000 (1.0%) on a headcount basis, and by 10,000 (1.1%) on a FTE basis.

In the year to Q4 2013 employment in public administration decreased by 11,000 (1.0%) on a headcount basis, and decreased by 8,000 (0.9%) on a FTE basis. Figure 4 shows the general downward trend in employment in public administration since Q3 2009. The headcount fell by 155,000 between Q4 2009 and Q4 2013.

Other Public Sector

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

Between Q3 2013 and Q4 2013, employment in the category 'other public sector' decreased by 157,000 (20.6%) on a headcount basis, and 144,000 (21.8%) on a FTE basis. This large decrease is explained by the reclassification into the private sector of Royal Mail in October 2013.

In the year to Q4 2013, employment in the category 'other public sector' fell by 212,000 (26.0%) on a headcount basis, and by 191,000 (27.0%) on a FTE basis. This was the largest headcount decrease seen in any industry over the period.

 

Figure 5: UK Public Sector Employment by Industry, seasonally adjusted

Figure 5: UK Public Sector Employment by Industry, seasonally adjusted
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 Q4 2013 employment in 'other health and social work' had fallen when compared with Q3 2013, by 2,000 (0.7%) on a headcount basis, and by 1,000 (0.5%) on a FTE basis.

In the year to Q4 2013, employment in 'other health and social work' fell by 13,000 (4.4%) on a headcount basis, and by 9,000 (4.1%) on a FTE basis.

Police

At Q4 2013 employment in the Police fell when compared with Q3 2013, by 1,000 (0.4%) on a headcount and remained at the same level on an FTE basis. Employment in the Police fell in each quarter since Q1 2010 up to Q4 2013. This is shown in Figure 5.

HM Forces

Between Q3 2013 and Q4 2013, employment in HM Forces fell by 6,000 (3.4%) on both a headcount and FTE basis. In the year to Q4 2013 it fell by 10,000 (5.6%) on both a headcount and FTE basis. Figure 5 shows the steady fall in employment in HM Forces since Q1 2010.

Construction

At Q4 2013, employment in public sector construction remained the same when compared with Q3 2013. It fell by 3,000 (7.0%) in the year to Q4 2013.

Figure 5 shows the downward trend in employment in public sector construction from the beginning of the series in Q1 1999, to Q4 2011. Since then the level has remained relatively stable.

 

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 (589 Kb Excel sheet) , 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 6: UK Public and Private Sector Employment, seasonally adjusted

Figure 6: UK Public and Private Sector Employment, seasonally adjusted
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.
  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 8.
  3. Royal Mail plc reclassified from the public sector to the private sector from October 2013.

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In Q4 2013, total UK private sector employment had increased by 264,000 (1.1%) compared with Q3 2013. Total UK public sector employment decreased by 159,000 (2.8%) over the same period.

Figure 6 shows the upward trend in total UK private sector employment since Q2 2011, with total UK private sector employment having shown an increase in every quarter since Q2 2011 to Q4 2013. With the effects of the major reclassification removed, total UK private sector employment increased by just over 1.2 million between Q2 2011 and Q4 2013.

The opposite trend can be seen in total UK public sector employment over the same period, which showed a near constant decline from Q2 2011 until Q4 2013. During this time total UK public sector employment fell by 577,000. When the effects of major reclassification are removed, there was a decrease of 177,000 in total UK public sector employment.

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 in the published regional tables may be due to seasonal effects. Each series begins at Q1 2008.

Public Sector Employment by Region

Figure 7: Change in Public Sector Employment, by Region, Q4 2012 - Q4 2013, not seasonally adjusted

Figure 7: Change in Public Sector Employment, by Region, Q4 2012 - Q4 2013, not seasonally adjusted
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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Nearly all of the Q4 2013 regional public sector employment estimates are lower than the corresponding Q4 2012 estimates.

The South East of England (30,000; 4.5%), Yorkshire and The Humber (27,000; 5.3%) and the South West (25,000; 5.3%), showed the largest falls in public sector employment in the year to Q4 2013.

In the year to Q4 2013, public sector employment only increased in Northern Ireland (1,000; 0.7%).

Private Sector Employment by Region

Figure 8: Change in Private Sector Employment, Q4 2012 - Q4 2013, not seasonally adjusted

Figure 8: Change in Private Sector Employment, Q4 2012 - Q4 2013, not seasonally adjusted
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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In the year to Q4 2013, private sector employment increased in all but one of the 12 regions. The largest increase in private sector employment in the year to Q4 2013 was seen in the South East of England (157,000; 4.7%). The next largest increases in private sector employment over this period were seen in Scotland (104,000; 5.5%) and the East of England (96,000; 4.4%).

The only region to show a decrease in private sector employment in the year to Q4 2013 was the East Midlands (9,000; 0.6%).

Proportion of Total Employment Employed by the Public Sector

Figure 9: Proportion of Total Employment Employed in the Public Sector, by Region, Q4 2013, not seasonally adjusted

Figure 9: Proportion of Total Employment Employed in the Public Sector, by Region, Q4 2013, not seasonally adjusted
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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Figure 9 shows the proportion of all those in employment employed in the public sector for each UK region at Q4 2013. Northern Ireland (27.9%), Wales (24.0%) and Scotland (22.1%) had the highest proportions of all in employment employed in the public sector.

At Q4 2013 North East (21.4%) remains the English region with the highest proportion of all in employment employed in the public sector. North West (19.7%) remains as the region with the second highest proportion. East of England (15.2%) and South East (15.5%) remain as the regions with the lowest proportions of all in employment employed in the public sector.

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

Civil Service

At Q4 2013, employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain decreased when compared with Q3 2013, by 1,460 on a headcount basis, and by 1,250 on a full-time equivalents (FTE) basis.

This was driven by decreases at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice.  In total, employment in Civil Service organisations sponsored by these bodies decreased by 4,530 on a headcount basis and by 4,310 on a FTE basis. These figures were almost offset by the inclusion of the National Crime Agency into the Civil Service in Q4 2013 with a headcount of 4190 and FTE of 4080.

Between Q3 and Q4 2013 smaller decreases were reported across Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Ministry of Defence.

Employment across the Department of Health increased by 190 on a headcount basis and 120 FTE.

Executive NDPBs

Note that employees of Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth 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 Q3 and Q4 2013, employment across all Executive NDPBs decreased by 4,070 on a headcount basis and by 4,440 on a FTE basis.

Employment in Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Home Office decreased by 3,780 on a headcount basis and by 3,720 on a FTE basis.

These decreases are explained by the fact that the Serious Organised Crime Agency, previously part of Home Office, ceased to exist from Q4 2013. It was replaced by the National Crime Agency which is a non-ministerial department classified as part of the Civil Service.

 

 

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 8 and 10, 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 Q3 2013 to Q4 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 Q3 2013. 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 5R 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.

    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, Q4 2013

      Response (% of questionnaires returned) Response (% of employment returned)
    Local Authorities Survey 96 95
    Public Bodies Survey 95 90
    Civil Service Survey 99 99
    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 Health and Social Care Information Centre(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 for 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 Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Again, this reflects the wider UK coverage (HSCIC 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 December 2012 are listed here:

    Table 3: Sector Classification and Machinery of Government Changes, 1 January 2013 - 31 December 2013

      Details
    National Crime Agency (NCA) The National Crime Agency (NCA) became fully operational on 7th October 2013. The NCA is a non-ministerial department sponsored by the Home Office.
    Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)  The Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) transferred 75 staff to AHVLA during Q4.
    Treasury Solicitor Home Office (excluding agencies) transferred 80 staff to Treasury Solicitor during Q4 2013. During Q3 2013 approximately 60 staff transferred from Home Office to the Treasury Solicitor. 
    UK Border Agency On 1 April 2013 UK Border Agency was subsumed into Home Office HQ , resulting in the transfer of approximately 11,150 staff.
    Treasury Solicitor During Q2 2013 approximately 70 staff transferred to Treasury Solicitor from Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government.
    Legal Aid Agency The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) was established 1 April 2013.  It replaces the now abolished Legal Service Commission (LSC, was an executive non-departmental public body).  Approximately 1600 staff transferred from LSC to LAA when LAA was established
    National College for Teaching and Leadership Teaching Agency and National College merged on 1 April 2013 to become National College for Teaching and Leadership.
    Government Car and Despatch During Q2 2013 Government Car and Despatch was subsumed into Department of Transport, resulting in the transfer in of approximately 90 staff.  
    Public Health England Public Health England came into operation on 1 April 2013 having taken over the roles and responsibilities of Health Protection Agency.  It is an executive agency of the Department of Health and accounts for approximately 5,100 staff.
    Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) On 1 April 2013 MHRA merged with National Institute for Biological and Standards Control (NIBSC) leading to an increase on 294 staff at MHRA.  
    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 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.

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Download table

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    A list of those given pre-publication access to the contents of this release is published as part of this release.

  12. 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
Mark Williams +44 (0)1633 456728 Office for National Statistics pse@ons.gsi.gov.uk
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