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Statistical bulletin: Public Sector Employment, Q3 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 12 December 2012 Download PDF

Headline figures:

  • Total UK public sector employment decreased for the twelfth consecutive quarter in Q3 2012, by 24,000 to 5.745 million.
  • Employment in UK local government decreased by 32,000 and UK central government increased by 13,000.
  • In Q3 2012, Civil Service employment in Great Britain decreased for the sixth consecutive quarter, by 3,000 to 455,000. Employment in UK public corporations decreased for the ninth consecutive quarter, by 5,000 to 478,000.
  • In Q3 2012, private sector employment increased for the fifth consecutive quarter, by an estimated 65,000 to 23.856 million.
  • The Q3 2012 total public sector employment estimate is 324,000 lower than the Q3 2011 estimate. The Q3 2012 private sector estimate is 823,000 higher than the Q3 2011 estimate. These were affected by the reclassification of English colleges in Q2 2012, which resulted in 196,000 employees being reclassified from the public to private sector.

Summary

This bulletin contains detailed public sector employment estimates, including new estimates for Q3 2012. For most sources that contribute to these statistics, the employment is reported for a specific day in September 2012. 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) is 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 all time series were open to revision in line with the revisions policy for Public Sector Employment. An improved method for estimating the employment of academies in England has also been implemented as part of this release. See background note 12 for further details.

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.

UK Public Sector Employment By Sector Classification

This chart shows the numbers employed in the UK public sector, broken down by sector, updated with the latest Q3 2012 estimates.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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Summary of UK Public Sector Employment by Sector Classification, Q3 2012

United Kingdom; headcount; thousands; seasonally adjusted
Quarter Central government (incl. NHS) Local government Public corporations Total public sector Of which: Civil Service 1
2011 Q3 2,842 2,722 505 6,069 480
2011 Q4 2,852 2,685 495 6,032 471
2012 Q1 2,863 2,646 490 5,999 464
2012 Q2 2,694 2,592 483 5,769 458
2012 Q3 2,707 2,560 478 5,745 455
Change on quarter 13 -32 -5 -24 -3
Change % 0.5 -1.2 -1.0 -0.4 -0.7
Change on  year  -135 -162 -27 -324 -25
Change % -4.8 -6.0 -5.3 -5.3 -5.2

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Civil Service estimates are Home Civil Service and therefore exclude Northern Ireland Civil Service, which is included in Central Government

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By sector classification; headcount (Table 1)

In the UK, total public sector employment was 5.745 million in Q3 2012, a decrease of 24,000 (0.4%) compared with Q2 2012. This is the twelfth consecutive quarter that UK total public sector employment has decreased ( Table 1 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

In Q3 2012 employment in UK local government decreased by 32,000 (1.2%) compared with Q2 2012, to 2.560 million. The local government estimate was affected by the conversion of local authority maintained schools to academy status. Employment in UK public corporations decreased by 5,000 (1.0%) over the same period, to 478,000. Employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain also decreased, by 3,000 (0.7%), to 455,000.

In Q3 2012, employment in central government increased by 13,000 (0.5%) to 2.707 million. This was affected by the transfer of 26,000 staff into central government as a result of local authority maintained schools (classified to local government) converting to academy status (academies are classified to central government).

The Q3 2012 UK total public sector employment estimate is 324,000 (5.3%) lower than the Q3 2011 estimate. During that period, UK total public sector employment was affected by the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations (in Q2 2012), which resulted in an estimated 196,000 employment being reclassified from the public to the private sector.

The Q3 2012 UK local government estimate is 162,000 (6.0%) lower than the Q3 2011 estimate. During that period UK local government employment was affected by the reclassification of English sixth form college corporations from local government to the private sector (in Q2 2012).

This resulted in an estimated 20,000 employment transferring from local government to the private sector. Over the same period UK local government employment was also affected by the conversion of local authority maintained schools to academy status. This has reduced the level of UK local government employment since Q3 2011.

The Q3 2012 central government estimate is 135,000 (4.8%) lower than at Q3 2011. During that period the central government estimate was affected by two main factors. The first is the reclassification of English further education colleges during Q2 2012 from central government to the private sector.

This resulted in an estimated 176,000 employment transferring from central government to the private sector. The second is that some local authority maintained schools converted to academy status, which resulted in an estimated 79,000 employment transferring into central government.

In the year to Q3 2012, employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain decreased by 25,000 (5.2%), and employment in UK public corporations decreased by 27,000 (5.3%).

Quarter-on-Quarter UK Public Sector Employment Growth by Sector, Q3 2012

This chart shows the growth in public sector employment between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012, broken down by sector.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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By industry; headcount (Table 2)

When UK public sector employment is analysed by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007), the largest decrease in Q3 2012, compared with Q2 2012, was in public administration (11,000; 1.0%). This was followed by decreases in 'other health and social work' (8,000; 2.5%) and education (8,000; 0.5%) ( Table 2 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

At Q3 2012, the estimate of employment in education was 201,000 (11.9%) lower than at Q3 2011. This was affected by the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in Q2 2012 from the public to the private sector. At the time of the reclassification, these colleges had an estimated combined employment of 196,000. When we remove the effects of this reclassification, the Q3 2012 education estimate is 5,000 lower than the Q3 2011 estimate.

At Q3 2012, the level of employment in construction did not change when compared with Q3 2011. All other industries showed decreases in employment over that time period. Not taking into account the change in education employment over the time period, the largest of these decreases was seen in 'other public sector' (41,000; 4.7%). This was followed by public administration (36,000; 3.2%) and 'other health and social work' (24,000; 7.3%).

Quarter-on-Quarter UK Public Sector Employment Growth by Industry, Q3 2012

This chart shows the quarter-on-quarter growth in UK public sector employment between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012, broken down by industry.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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By sector classification and industry; full-time equivalents (Tables 3 and 4)

Table 3 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides full-time equivalent (FTE) estimates by sector classification while Table 4 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides FTE estimates by industry.

Total UK public sector employment on an FTE basis was 4.714 million in Q3 2012. This was a decrease of 14,000 (0.3%) compared with Q2 2012, driven by decreases in local government (20,000; 1.0%) and public corporations (4,000; 0.9%).

FTE employment in local government was affected by the conversion of local authority maintained schools (classified to local government) to academy status (academies are classified to central government). In Q3 2012 the FTE employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain was 420,000, a decrease of 3,000 (0.7%) compared with Q2 2012.

In Q3 2012, FTE employment in central government increased by 10,000 (0.4%) compared with Q2 2012. Employment in central government was affected by the conversion of local authority maintained schools to academy status. This resulted in an estimated 20,000 FTE employment transferring into central government.

By industry, the largest decrease in FTE employment between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012 was in public administration (7,000; 0.8%), followed by 'other health and social work' (6,000; 2.6%) and 'other public sector' (4,000; 0.6%).

Public and private sector employment; headcount (Table 5)

Private sector employment totals are derived as the difference between Labour Force Survey employment estimates for the whole economy and the public sector employment estimates collected from public sector organisations ( Table 5 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

In Q3 2012, UK private sector employment increased by 65,000 (0.3%) when compared with Q2 2012, to 23.856 million. This was the fifth consecutive quarter that private sector employment had increased. Over the same period, UK public sector employment decreased for the twelfth consecutive quarter, by 24,000 (0.4%), to 5.745 million. The increase in private sector employment offset the decrease in public sector employment for the fourth consecutive quarter.

At Q3 2012, the public sector accounted for 19.4% of total UK employment. This is the lowest proportion of people employed in the public sector in the entire Public Sector Employment Statistics series, which begins at Q1 1999. 

The proportion of people employed in the public sector decreased by 0.1 percentage points from the 19.5% seen at Q2 2012. Similarly, at 80.6% the proportion of private sector employment at Q3 2012 is the highest seen in the private sector employment series, which also begins at Q1 1999.

At Q3 2012, the public sector employment estimate was 324,000 (5.3%) lower than the Q3 2011 estimate. The private sector employment estimate was 823,000 (3.6%) higher than the Q3 2011 estimate. The Q3 2012 public and private sector employment estimates, when compared with the Q3 2011 estimates, have been affected by the reclassification of the English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in Q2 2012 from the public to the private sector.

This had the effect of an estimated 196,000 employment transferring from the public to the private sector during Q2 2012. When we remove the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges between Q3 2011 and Q3 2012, public sector employment decreased by 128,000, and private sector employment increased by 627,000.

Quarter-on-Quarter UK Employment Growth by Main Sector, Q3 2012

This chart shows the quarter-on-quarter growth in UK public sector employment between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012, broken down by main sector.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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Public and private sector employment by region; headcount (Tables 6 and 7)

Table 6 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows estimates of public sector employment, broken down by region. Table 7 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows estimates of private sector employment, broken down by region. The private sector estimates are derived by subtracting the regional public sector employment estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) regional total employment estimates.

UK Public Sector Employment by Region, Q3 2012

This chart shows UK public sector employment at Q3 2012, broken down by region.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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In Q3 2012 London was the region with the largest number of public sector employees (741,000) followed by the South East (659,000), and the North West (643,000).

In Q3 2012 there were decreases in public sector employment in all English regions compared with Q2 2012, resulting in an overall decrease across England of 41,000 (0.9%). The largest decrease was seen in the East of England (11,000; 2.6%). This was followed by the West Midlands (5,000; 1.0%) and Yorkshire and The Humber (5,000; 0.9%). Over the same period, decreases in public sector employment were also seen in Scotland (4,000; 0.6%), Northern Ireland (3,000; 1.4%) and Wales (3,000; 1.0%).

In Q3 2012, there were decreases in private sector employment compared with Q2 2012 in the South East (26,000; 0.8%), the North West (12,000; 0.5%) and the East of England (3,000; 0.1%). The level of private sector employment in the South West was unchanged in Q3 2012 when compared with Q2 2012.

The overall increase in private sector employment across England over the same period of 137,000 (0.7%) was a result of increases in all other English regions. The largest increase was seen in Yorkshire and The Humber (59,000; 3.1%), followed by London (58,000; 1.6%) and the West Midlands (23,000; 1.2%).

Over the same period private sector employment increased in Scotland (13,000; 0.7%) and Northern Ireland (9,000; 1.7%). However private sector employment in Wales decreased by 16,000 (1.7%) between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012.

In the year to Q3 2012, England (304,000; 6.2%), Scotland (12,000; 2.0%), Northern Ireland (3,000; 1.4%) and Wales (3,000; 0.9%) all showed decreases in public sector employment. Public sector employment in Great Britain decreased by 320,000 (5.5%), and in the UK by 324,000 (5.3%; seasonally adjusted).

The change in the level of public sector employment in England (and subsequently Great Britain and the UK) in the year to Q3 2012 was affected by the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations during Q2 2012.

This reclassification resulted in an estimated 196,000 employment being reclassified from the public to the private sector in Q2 2012. When we remove the effects of this reclassification, public sector employment in England in the year to Q3 2012 decreased by 108,000, in Great Britain by 124,000 and in the UK by 128,000.

In the year to Q3 2012, private sector employment in the UK increased by 823,000 (3.6%; seasonally adjusted), and in Great Britain increased by 656,000 (2.9%). Private sector employment in the year to Q3 2012 increased in England (665,000; 3.4%) and Scotland (1,000; 0.0%), but decreased in Wales (9,000; 0.9%) and Northern Ireland (8,000; 1.4%).

In the year to Q3 2012, private sector employment in England (and subsequently Great Britain and the UK) was also affected by the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form colleges corporations. When we remove the effects of this reclassification, private sector employment in England in the year to Q3 2012 increased by 469,000, in Great Britain by 460,000 and in the UK by 627,000 (seasonally adjusted).

In Q3 2012 Northern Ireland (27.7%), Wales (25.7%), Scotland (23.5%) and the North East (22.2%) were the regions of the UK with the highest proportion of their workforces employed in the public sector. The regions of the UK with the lowest proportion of their workforces employed in the public sector were the South East (16.6%), the East of England (16.7%) and London (16.9%).

Including and excluding financial corporations, English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations (Table 8)

Table 8 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows estimates of public sector employment both including and excluding publicly owned financial corporations (such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group), English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations. A non-seasonally adjusted time series for financial corporations can be found at background note 8 of this statistical bulletin.

In Q3 2012, public sector employment (excluding financial corporations, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations) decreased by 20,000 (0.4%) compared with Q2 2012, and by 114,000 (2.0%) compared with Q3 2011. Between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012, employment in publicly owned financial corporations decreased by 4,000 (2.1%). At Q3 2012, UK publicly owned financial corporations accounted for approximately 3.2% of total UK public sector employment.

Civil Service employment by department and agency (Tables 9 and 10)

Table 9 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows employment by government department, whereas Table 10 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides a more detailed breakdown of employment by agency.

In Q3 2012, the number of employees in the Civil Service in Great Britain decreased by 3,360 (0.7%) compared with Q2 2012, to 455,080, and on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis by 3,190 (0.8%) to 419,990. When we look at the change by contract type, we see that employment of people on permanent contracts decreased (3,600 headcount; 3,520 FTE), whereas employment of people on temporary or casual contracts increased (250 headcount; 330 FTE).

Between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012, the largest increase in employment by department was seen across the Department for Work and Pensions (260 headcount; 240 FTE). This was mainly seen in the Department for Work and Pensions (excluding agencies). The Child Maintainance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) was subsumed into Department for Work and Pensions (excluding agencies) during Q3 2012.

When the combined Q2 2012 employment for Department for Work and Pensions (excluding agencies) and CMEC is compared with the Q3 2012 employment for Department for Work and Pensions (excluding agencies) (which includes CMEC) there is an increase of 270 headcount (250 FTE). The next largest increase in employment between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012 was seen in the Welsh Government (80 headcount; 80 FTE).

Between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012, the largest decrease in employment was seen across the Ministry of Justice (1,120 headcount; 1,070 FTE). This was mainly due to decreases in the National Offender Management Service (900 headcount; 870 FTE) and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) (230 headcount; 220 FTE).

It should be noted that approximately 100 staff (on a headcount basis) transferred from HMCTS to Ministry of Justice (excluding agencies). This offset decreases elsewhere in Ministry of Justice (excluding agencies), and resulted in a small increase in Ministry of Justice (excl agencies) of 20 headcount (20 FTE).

The second largest decrease by department between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012 was seen across HM Revenue and Customs (1,060 headcount; 980 FTE). This was due to a decrease of 1,090 headcount (1,010 FTE) in HM Revenue and Customs (excluding agencies), a small proportion of which was offset by an increase in the Valuation Office Agency of (40 headcount; 30 FTE).

The third largest decrease in employment by department between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012 was seen across the Ministry of Defence (910 headcount; 880 FTE). This was caused by a decrease in Ministry of Defence (excluding trading funds) of 960 headcount (920 FTE), a small proportion of which was offset by small increases in the trading funds (Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory; Defence Support Group; UK Hydrographic Office).

The next largest decrease in employment by department between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012 was seen across the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (150 headcount; 140 FTE), followed by the Attorney General's departments (120 headcount; 110 FTE), the Department for Education (120 headcount; 110 FTE), and Scottish Government (100 headcount; 90 FTE).

Smaller movements were seen among the other departments and agencies.

Employment in Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies (Table 11)

Table 11 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides the employment in Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), aggregated by sponsoring department, on a headcount and full-time equivalent (FTE) basis.

In Q3 2012 total employment in Executive NDPBs decreased (800 headcount; 800 FTE) when compared against Q2 2012. Note that this does not include Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as the estimate would potentially be disclosive. 

The decrease was driven by a decrease in employment across Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (1,100 headcount; 1,060 FTE), the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (110 headcount; 140 FTE), the Department of Health (90 headcount; 90 FTE) and the Home Office (80 headcount; 90 FTE).

There were increases in overall employment in Executive NDPBs across a number of departments. The largest of these increases was seen across Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (180 headcount; 150 FTE), followed by those sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (170 headcount; 170 FTE) and Scottish Government (70 headcount; 70 FTE).

There were decreases in the level of employment in Executive NDPBs for permanent contracts (480 headcount; 490 FTE) and temporary or casual contracts (310 headcount; 310 FTE). Note that these estimates do not include employment in Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as the estimates could potentially be disclosive.

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 Summary Quality Report for Public Sector Employment (115.9 Kb Pdf) .

  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.

    The Public Sector Classification Guide (81.9 Kb Pdf)  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 Q2 2012 to Q3 2012 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 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 Q2 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 5R (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) 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.

    Response (% of questionnaires returned) Response (% of employment)
    Local Authorities Survey 92 93
    Public Bodies Survey 86 94
    Civil Service Survey 100 100
    Other Sources (see below) 100 100

    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.

    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 Welsh Government
    Scotland Scottish Government
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Academies England Schools Workforce Census and list of all open academies (Department for Education)
    Other Central Government Great Britain Quarterly Public Sector 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 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

    ONS is now able to produce regional estimates of PSE based on returns from public sector organisations ( Table 6 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) ). 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 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 30 September 2011 are listed here:

    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.
    Central Office of Information (COI) COI closed on 31 March 2012. Following this, around 70 residual staff transferred to Cabinet Office on 1 April 2012.
    Government Property Unit As of March 2012, approximately 50 Government Property Unit staff moved from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to Cabinet Office.
    Home Office There is ongoing movement of staff between Home Office HQ and each of the Department's Executive Agencies (and vice versa) as staff move to meet the demands of the business. On 1 March 2012, approximately 7,470 full-time equivalents moved from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to Home Office HQ in an internal restructure. Between Q2 2011 and Q3 2011 the headcount within HQ increased. The main reasons for this increase were restructuring within the Department and transfers of existing civil servants between government departments, in particular: 99 staff within UKBA's Immigration and Border Policy transferred from UKBA to become part of Home Office HQ; 30 staff within the UKBA Chief Inspectorate Unit, (previously an arms-length organisation and therefore excluded from earlier QPSES returns), joined Home Office HQ; 15 staff joined HQ as part of the roll out of Civil Service Learning, a Next Generation HR business, based within the Home Office on behalf of all government Departments, and; a further 31 staff moved out of Home Office HQ to its Executive Agencies or other Government Departments.
    Standards and Testing Agency (STA) The STA is a new executive agency of the Department for Education and commenced operating on 3 October 2011.
    Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Jobcentre Plus and the Disability and Carers Service ceased to have legal status with effect from 2 October 2011. This information has been aggregated with that of DWP Corporate and Shared Services to produce one figure for the DWP. The Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission and the Health and Safety Executive are unaffected by this change and remain Crown Non-Departmental Public Bodies.
    The Postal Services Commission (Postcomm) Postcomm (at the time approximately 50 staff) was merged into the communications regulator Ofcom on 1 October 2011.
  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)).

    Period Headcount Full-time equivalent
    Q1 2008* 9,300 8,700
    Q2 2008 9,400 8,800
    Q3 2008** 10,700 10,100
    Q4 2008*** 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**** 192,000 176,400
    Q2 2012 188,800 173,500
    Q3 2012  185,500  170,500

    * Bank of England classified as a public financial corporation on 7 February 2008 from its inception (1946). Northern Rock classified as a public financial corporation from 9 October 2007.

    ** Bradford and Bingley plc classified as a public financial corporation from 26 September 2008.

    *** 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.

    ****Northern Rock plc classified as private sector following its sale to Virgin Money Holdings (UK) Ltd, on 1 January 2012. More information about the sale can be found on the UK Financial Investments Ltd website.

  9. Further Education Colleges

    On 13 October 2010, ONS announced the reclassification of further education corporations and sixth form colleges 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 corporations and sixth form colleges 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 corporations and English sixth form college employment estimates 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  (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) 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 Office for National Statistics (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 against 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. Non-Departmental Public Bodies

    Since the release of the Q2 2011 Public Sector Employment statistical bulletin, ONS has published a table detailing employment in Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) aggregated by their sponsoring government departments ( Table 11 (552.5 Kb Excel sheet) ). This table does not detail employment at an individual Executive NDPB level. ONS is working with Executive NDPBs to gain consent to publish their individual returns to the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES) on the ONS website.

  12. Coverage of Academies in England

    Improvements to the way employment in public sector education in England is estimated have been implemented in the PSE, Q3 2012 release. Revisions to the estimates caused by these improvements have been 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 new 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.

  13. 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 (34.7 Kb Pdf) .

  14. Copyright and reproduction

    © Crown copyright 2012

    Under the terms of the Open Government Licence and UK Government Licensing Framework, anyone wishing to use or re-use ONS material, whether commercially or privately, may do so freely without a specific application for a licence, subject to the conditions of the OGL and the Framework.

    For further information, contact the Office of Public Sector Information, Crown Copyright Licensing and Public Sector Information, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU.

    Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444

    Email psi@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk

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  16. 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

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;
    • are well explained and readily accessible;
    • are produced according to sound methods; and
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Emily Carless +44 (0)1633 455717 Labour Market Division, Office for National Statistics pse@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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