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Statistical bulletin: Public Sector Employment, Q4 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 20 March 2013 Download PDF

In Q4 2012:

  • total UK public sector employment decreased for the thirteenth consecutive quarter, by 20,000 to 5.722 million.
  • employment in UK local government decreased by 32,000, and employment in the Civil Service in Great Britain decreased by 4,000.
  • UK central government employment increased by 11,000, and employment in UK public corporations increased by 1,000.
  • private sector employment increased for the sixth consecutive quarter, by an estimated 151,000 to 24.010 million.
  • the total public sector employment estimate is 313,000 lower, and the total private sector estimate 904,000 higher, than their respective Q4 2011 estimates. These were affected by the reclassification of English colleges in Q2 2012, which resulted in 196,000 employees being reclassified from the public to the private sector.

Summary

This bulletin contains detailed public sector employment estimates, including new estimates for Q4 2012. For most sources that contribute to these statistics, the employment is reported for a specific day in December 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) has been aggregated by sponsoring department.

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

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

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

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

By sector classification; headcount (Table 1)

UK Public Sector Employment, Q1 1999 to Q4 2012

This chart shows a time series of UK public sector employment, public corporations and the home Civil Service. A series for the UK public sector, excluding English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations, has also been provided.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

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

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Total UK public sector employment was 5.722 million at Q4 2012. This is a decrease of 20,000 (0.3%) compared with Q3 2012, and is 313,000 (5.2%) lower than the Q4 2011 estimate. Total UK public sector employment peaked at 6.365 million at Q3 2009. It then fell each quarter for over three years between then and Q4 2012, and is now 643,000 (10.1%) lower ( Table 1 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

In Q2 2012, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations were reclassified from the public sector to the private sector (see background note 9 for further details). This resulted in an estimated employment of 196,000 moving from the public sector to the private sector during Q2 2012. When we remove the effects of this reclassification, total UK public sector employment fell by 117,000 between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012, and by 438,0001 between Q3 2009 and Q4 2012.

Employment in public corporations was 479,000 at Q4 2012. This is 1,000 (0.2%) higher than at Q3 2012, but 16,000 (3.2%) lower than at Q4 2011. The lowest level of employment in public corporations was 359,000 at Q2 and Q3 2007 (before Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland became part of the public sector). It then peaked at 589,000 at Q4 2008, immediately after Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland had moved into the public sector. At Q4 2012 employment in public corporations was 120,000 (33.4%) higher than it was at Q3 2007, and had fallen 110,000 (18.7%) since the Q4 2008 peak.

At Q4 2012, employment in the home Civil Service stood at 451,000. This is the lowest level in the series, which dates back to Q1 1999. Home Civil Service employment has been on a slight downward trend since it peaked at 571,000 at Q2 2005. Q4 2012 was the seventh consecutive quarter in which employment in the home Civil Service had decreased. At Q4 2012 it was 4,000 (0.9%) lower than at Q3 2012, and 20,000 (4.2%) lower than at Q4 2011.

UK Public Sector Employment in Local and Central Government, Q1 1999 to Q4 2012

Chart shows series of local and central government employment, including and excluding English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

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

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At Q4 2012, employment in UK local government stood at its lowest level in the series, at 2.524 million. This is 32,000 (1.3%) lower than at Q3 2012, and 164,000 (6.1%) lower than at Q4 2011. UK local government employment is 445,000 (15.0%) lower than it was at the peak level seen at Q3 2006.

The reclassification of English sixth form college corporations in Q2 2012 resulted in an estimated employment of 20,000 (not seasonally adjusted) moving from local government to the private sector. When we remove the effects of this reclassification, UK local government employment at Q4 2012 is 425,000 lower than the peak seen at Q3 2006 and is 144,000 lower than at Q4 2011.

At Q4 2012, employment in UK central government was 2.719 million. This is an increase of 11,000 (0.4%) compared with Q3 2012, but is 133,000 (4.7%) lower than Q4 2011. The Q4 2012 UK central government employment estimate is 164,000 (5.7%) lower than it was at the peak seen at Q4 2009.

UK central government employment was affected by the reclassification of English further education colleges in Q2 2012. This meant that employment of approximately 176,000 moved from central government to the private sector in Q2 2012. When we remove the impact of this reclassification, UK central government employment at Q4 2012 had increased by 43,000 since Q4 2011, and by 21,0002 compared with Q4 2009.

The conversion of local authority maintained schools to academies has had an impact on employment in local and central government. Although the first academy was created in 2002, there was little impact on these series until the passing of the Academies Act 2010 in July 2010. Since then the rate at which academies have been created has increased. This is due to local authority maintained schools (classified to local government) converting to academy status (academies are classified to central government). As such, when a school converts to an academy, its employment leaves local government and moves to central government. At Q4 2012, it is estimated that just under 255,000 people were employed in academies. The majority of academies are now converted schools.

At Q4 2012 UK central government employment was 195,000 greater than UK local government employment. Q2 2011 was the first point at which the level of employment in UK central government exceeded the level in UK local government. The gap between employment in central and local government has been widening ever since. This is mainly due to the conversion of local authority maintained schools to academies.

Notes for By sector classification; headcount (Table 1)

  1. The level of employment in English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations at Q3 2009 is estimated to have been 205,000.
  2. The level of employment in English further education colleges at Q4 2009 is estimated to have been 185,000.

By industry; headcount (Table 2)

UK Public Sector Employment by Industry

This chart shows time series of UK public sector employment in the following industries - public administration, education, NHS, 'other public sector'.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

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

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At Q4 2012, the NHS was the industry that made up the highest proportion of UK public sector employment, accounting for 27.3%. At 1.560 million, the level of employment in the NHS at Q4 2012 had increased by 7,000 (0.5%) compared with Q3 2012. This was the largest increase seen in any industry over this period (the only other industry to increase over this period was public administration). NHS employment decreased by 2,000 (0.1%) between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012, and by 52,000 (3.2%) between its peak in Q4 2009 and Q4 2012 ( Table 2 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

At Q4 2012, employment in public sector education was 1.470 million. This is a decrease of 16,000 (1.1%) compared with Q3 2012, which is the largest decrease in any industry over this period. When compared with Q4 2011, employment in public sector education was 207,000 (12.3%) lower. However this is mainly due to the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in Q2 2012, which resulted in approximately 196,000 employees moving from public sector education to the private sector. When the effects of this reclassification have been removed, employment in public sector education decreased by 11,000 between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. Despite the reclassification of the English colleges, employment in public sector education is still above pre-Q1 2001 levels. At Q4 2012, education made up the second highest proportion of UK public sector employment, accounting for 25.7%. Prior to the reclassification of the English colleges, education accounted for the highest proportion of UK public sector employment (it accounted for 27.8% at Q1 2012).

At Q4 2012, employment in public administration was 1.083 million. This is an increase of 1,000 (0.1%) compared with Q3 2012, and is the first quarter-on-quarter increase in employment in public administration since Q3 2009 (the only other industry to show an increase in employment between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 was the NHS). The Q3 2012 level was the lowest level in the public administration series, which begins at Q1 1999. The Q4 2012 level is 20,000 (1.8%) lower than the Q4 2011 level, and is 213,000 (16.4%) lower than the peak of 1.296 million seen at Q2 2005.

At Q4 2012, employment in 'other public sector' was 818,000. It had fallen by 6,000 (0.7%) compared with Q3 2012. This is the second largest decrease in any industry over that period. At Q4 2012, employment in 'other public sector' had decreased by 37,000 (4.3%) compared with Q4 2011. This is the second largest decrease seen over that period for any industry (it is the largest when the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges have been removed from the education series). Employment in 'other public sector' peaked at 997,000 at Q4 2008, immediately after Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland moved in to the public sector. Between Q4 2008 and Q4 2012, employment in 'other public sector' fell by 179,000 (18.0%).

UK Public Sector Employment by Industry

This chart shows time series of UK public sector employment in the following industries - construction, HM Forces, Police, 'other health and social work'.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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At Q4 2012, employment in 'other health and social work' was 302,000. This is the lowest level in this series, which starts at Q1 1999. It has fallen by 3,000 (1.0%) compared with Q3 2012, and by 29,000 (8.8%) compared with Q4 2011. The decrease between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012 is the largest annual decrease in the 'other health and social work' series. When compared against the other industries, the decrease between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012 is the third largest (it is the second largest when the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges are removed from the education series). Employment in 'other health and social work' fell by a total of 59,000 (16.3%) during the three years from Q4 2009 to Q4 2012.

At Q4 2012, employment in the Police was 261,000. This is a decrease of 2,000 (0.8%) compared with Q3 2012, and of 8,000 (3.0%) compared with Q4 2011. Employment in the Police followed an upward trend from the start of the series, at Q1 1999, to its peak of 295,000 in Q3 2009. It remained the same at Q4 2009, but has fallen in each quarter since then, by a total of 34,000 (11.5%). However Police employment at Q4 2012 was still above pre-Q1 2004 levels.

At Q4 2012, employment in HM Forces was 178,000. This is a decrease of 5,000 (2.7%) compared with Q3 2012. HM Forces employment decreased by 11,000 (5.8%) compared with Q4 2011. However compared with other industries over the same period, the size of the decrease is not significantly large. At Q4 2012, employment in HM Forces had fallen by a total of 45,000 (20.2%) since Q2 2003.

At Q4 2012, public sector employment in the construction industry remained at a similar level when compared with Q3 2012. The construction industry has historically made up the lowest proportion of employment in the UK public sector, and at Q4 2012 it accounted for 0.8% of UK public sector employment. Employment in public sector construction peaked at 110,000 at the start of the series (in Q1 1999) and followed a downward trend up to Q4 2011. During this time employment in public sector construction decreased by 68,000 (61.8%). Employment in public sector construction increased by 1,000 (2.4%) between Q1 2012 and Q2 2012, and remained at a similar level up to Q4 2012.

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

Table 3 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides full-time equivalent (FTE) estimates by sector classification while Table 4 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides FTE estimates by industry.

Total UK public sector employment on an FTE basis was 4.708 million at Q4 2012. This was a decrease of 5,000 (0.1%) compared with Q3 2012. Over this period, increases in employment on an FTE basis in central government (9,000; 0.4%) and public corporations (2,000; 0.5%) were offset by a decrease in local government of 16,000 (0.8%). At Q4 2012, FTE employment in local government and the Civil Service were at their lowest levels in the series, which each start at Q1 1999.

FTE employment in local and central government were affected by the conversion of local authority maintained schools (classified to local government) to academy status (academies are classified to central government). Between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012, central government FTE employment increased by an estimated 9,000 as a result of academies being created. The majority of these academies were schools that had converted.

At Q4 2012, FTE employment in the UK public sector was 207,000 lower compared with Q4 2011. This was mainly as a result of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in Q2 2012, which resulted in FTE employment of approximately 131,000 transferring from the public sector to the private sector. When the effects of this reclassification are removed, FTE employment in the UK public sector decreased by approximately 76,000 between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012.

As the result of the creation of academies, it is estimated that an additional 58,000 FTE employment joined central government between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. The vast majority of these academies were local authority maintained schools that converted to academy status.

The only industry to show an increase in FTE employment between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 was the NHS, which increased by 8,000 (0.6%) to a level of 1.322 million. FTE employment in public administration remained stable over the same period. The FTE employment in all other industries decreased.

FTE employment in the NHS increased by 2,000 (0.2%) between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. FTE employment decreased in all other industries over the same period. The largest of these was in education (128,000; 10.6%), although this is accounted for by the reclassification of the English colleges in Q2 2012. When the effects of this reclassification have been removed, FTE employment in education increased by approximately 3,000 between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. The largest decrease in FTE employment (when the effects of the English colleges reclassification have been removed) over this period was in 'other public sector' (28,000; 3.8%).

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 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) ).

UK Public and Private Sector Employment

This chart shows series of UK employment in the public and private sectors. The series also shows series which remove the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations from the public to the private sector (in Q2 2012).
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. English further education colleges and English sixth form college corporations classified to public sector from 1993 to 31 March 2012. They are therefore included in public sector estimates from 1993 to Q1 2012, and in private sector estimates in subsequent quarters. See background note 9.

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At Q4 2012, total UK employment reached its highest recorded level, at 29.732 million. This is an increase of 131,000 on the previous highest recorded level seen at Q3 2012.

At Q4 2012, UK private sector employment was 24.010 million. This is the highest level of private sector employment in the series, which starts at Q1 1999, and is an increase of 151,000 (0.6%) compared with Q3 2012. At Q4 2012, private sector employment was 904,000 (3.9%) higher than it was in Q4 2011. However in Q2 2012 English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations were reclassified from the public to the private sector. This resulted in an estimated employment of 196,000 moving from the public to the private sector. When the effects of this reclassification have been removed, private sector employment increased by 708,000 between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012.

Private sector employment followed an upward trend from Q1 1999 to Q1 2008 to reach 23.518 million. It then decreased between Q1 2008 and Q4 2009 by 1.037 million (4.4%) to 22.481 million. An upward trend was then seen between Q4 2009 and Q4 2012. During this period, every quarter except for Q2 2011 showed an increase on the previous quarter. At Q4 2012, the increase in private sector employment had offset the decrease in public sector employment for five consecutive quarters.

Total UK public sector employment was 5.722 million at Q4 2012. This is a decrease of 20,000 (0.3%) compared with Q3 2012, and is 313,000 (5.2%) lower than the Q4 2011 estimate. When the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges have been removed, public sector employment decreased by 117,000 between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. Since it reached its peak of 6.365 million in Q3 2009, total UK public sector employment has fallen each quarter. It was 643,000 (10.1%) lower at Q4 2012 than it was at Q3 2009 (it was 438,000 lower when the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges are removed).

At Q4 2012, public sector employment accounted for 19.2% of total UK employment. This is the lowest proportion of people employed in the public sector in the series, which starts at Q1 1999. It is a decrease of 0.2 percentage points compared with Q3 2012. The Q4 2012 proportion of people employed in the public sector is 1.5 percentage points lower than the Q4 2011 proportion. It is a fall of 2.9 percentage points compared with Q4 2009, when the proportion of people employed in the public sector in the UK was at its highest.

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

Table 6 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows estimates of public sector employment, broken down by region. Table 7 (481.5 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. The series in tables 6 and 7 have not been seasonally adjusted, and as such variations between quarters may be due to seasonal factors.

Regional Public Sector Employment

Public Sector Employment by Region, Q4 2012

This chart shows UK public sector employment at Q4 2012, broken down by region
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

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At Q4 2012, London (13%) and the South East (11.6%) accounted for the highest proportions of UK public sector employment. Northern Ireland (3.8%) and the North East (4.5%) accounted for the lowest proportions of UK public sector employment.

During Q4 2012 there were increases in public sector employment in seven of the nine English regions, when compared with Q3 2012. This resulted in an increase across England over the period of 19,000 (0.4%). Public sector employment in Wales increased over this period by 1,000 (0.4%), and also increased in Northern Ireland by 1,000 (0.3%).

Change in Public Sector Employment by Region, Q4 2011 - Q4 2012

This chart shows the change in public sector employment in each UK region between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. It shows the changes both including and excluding the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations in Q2 2011.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

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

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Between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012, public sector employment decreased in all regions with the largest decreases seen in the South West (39,000; 7.5%), the East of England (38,000; 8.2%), the North West (37,000; 5.5%) and the South East (37,000; 5.2%). The decreases were largest in all of the English regions. In most cases this was due to the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations. This resulted in employment of approximately 196,000 moving from the English regions to the private sector during Q2 2012. When the effects of this reclassification have been removed, the East of England shows the largest decrease (19,000) between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012.

Regional Private Sector Employment

Private Sector Employment by Region, Q4 2012

This chart shows the levels of private sector employment in each region of the UK at Q4 2012
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey, Labour Force Survey - Office for National Statistics

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In Q4 2012 London (71,000; 2.0%), the West Midlands (58,000; 3.0%), the East of England (37,000; 1.7%) and the North West (8,000; 0.3%) all showed increases in private sector employment compared with Q3 2012. These offset the decreases in the other English regions and resulted in an increase of 96,000 (0.5%) in England over the period. The largest decrease in the English regions between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 was in the South East (21,000; 0.6%).

Private sector employment decreased in Northern Ireland (10,000; 1.7%), Wales (6,000; 0.6%) and Scotland (5,000; 0.3%) between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012.

Change in Private Sector Employment by Region, Q4 2011 - Q4 2012

This chart shows the change in private sector employment between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012 for each region of the UK. The change is shown both including and excluding the effects of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations from the public sector to the private sector (in Q2 2012).
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey, Labour Force Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

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

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At Q4 2012, private sector employment had increased in all English regions compared with Q4 2011. This is still true for all English regions when the impact of the reclassification of the English colleges has been removed. The largest increases in private sector employment in the English regions over this period were in London (275,000; 8.0%) and the West Midlands (109,000; 5.7%). The smallest increases in the English regions over the period were in the North East (29,000; 3.5%) and the South East (35,000; 1.1%). When the effects of the reclassification of the English colleges have been removed, private sector employment between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012 increased by 251,000 in London, by 87,000 in the West Midlands, by 19,000 in the North East and by 4,000 in the South East.

At Q4 2012, private sector employment had decreased when compared with Q4 2011 in Northern Ireland (18,000; 3.1%) and Wales (15,000; 1.6%). Over the same period private sector employment in Scotland increased (15,000; 0.8%). 

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

Table 8 (481.5 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.

UK Public Sector Employment Including and Excluding Financial Corporations and English Further Education Colleges and Sixth Form College Corporations

This chart shows total UK public sector employment including and excluding financial corporations and English colleges. The time series of pbulicly owned financial corporations and publicly owned further education colleges and sixth form college corporations are also shown.
Source: Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

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

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In Q4 2012, UK public sector employment (excluding financial corporations, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations) decreased by 17,000 (0.3%) compared with Q3 2012 to 5.540 million. It had decreased by 103,000 (1.8%) compared with Q4 2011. UK public sector employment (excluding financial corporations, English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations) peaked at 5.941 million in Q4 2009. In the following three years to Q4 2012 it fell each quarter, by a total of 401,000 (6.8%).

At Q4 2012 employment in publicly owned financial corporations was 182,000. This is a decrease of 3,000 (1.6%) compared with Q3 2012, and of 14,000 (7.1%) compared with Q4 2011. At Q4 2012, employment in publicly owned financial corporations accounted for 3.2% of total UK public sector employment. This proportion has remained fairly stable since Q4 2009, having fallen by 0.2 percentage points over the three-year period to Q4 2012.

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

Table 9 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows employment by government department, whereas Table 10 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) provides a more detailed breakdown of employment by agency.

In Q4 2012, the number of employees in the Civil Service in Great Britain decreased by 3,670 (0.8%) compared with Q3 2012, to 451,440, and on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis by 3,350 (0.8%) to 416,670. The number of people employed on permanent contracts decreased by 1,210 (0.3%) compared with Q3 2012. The number of people employed on temporary or casual contracts decreased by 2,460 (30.1%) over the same period. The main reason for the decrease in those employed on temporary or casual contracts was that over 3,000 employees of HM Revenue and Customs (excluding agencies), who were previously employed on temporary fixed term contracts, changed their contract type during Q4 2012. The overall employment in HM Revenue and Customs (excluding agencies) decreased by 500 headcount (310 FTE).

Between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012, decreases were seen across around half of the departments and devolved administrations. The largest decrease over this period was seen across the Ministry of Defence (1,500 headcount; 1,410 FTE). This was almost entirely due to a decrease in the Ministry of Defence (excluding trading funds) of 1,520 headcount (1,430 FTE), with small movements seen in the trading funds.

Decreases of over 500 headcount were also seen between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 across each of the Department for Work and Pensions (1,100 headcount; 1,150 FTE) and the Ministry of Justice (620 headcount; 620 FTE). A large decrease in the Department for Work and Pensions (excluding the Health and Safety Executive) of 1,070 headcount (1,120 FTE) was the main reason for the decrease across the department as a whole. Decreases of 470 headcount (480 FTE) in the National Offenders Management Service and of 190 headcount (180 FTE) in Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service caused the decrease across the Ministry of Justice.

During Q4 2012 the Asset Protection Agency closed down. The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS is classified as an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body and as such the former employees of the CRB are no longer included in Civil Service estimates.

There was an increase of 650 headcount (640 FTE) in Home Office (excluding agencies). This was mainly due to the transfer in of staff from the National Policing Improvement Agency, who between them had an FTE of 510.

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

Table 11 (481.5 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. Note that none of the figures quoted account for estimates of employment in Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as including these estimates would be disclosive.

In Q4 2012, total employment in Executive NDPBs decreased by 890 headcount (480 FTE) compared with Q3 2012. When data are aggregated by sponsoring department, there were decreases across just over half of the departments.

The largest decreases were seen across Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Home Office. This was mainly due to the transfer of staff with an estimated FTE of 510 into the Home Office. As such these staff are now included in public sector employment estimates as part of the Civil Service. The next largest decreases between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 were seen across Executive NDPBs sponsored by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (290 headcount; 10 FTE) and the Department for Work and Pensions (280 headcount; 270 FTE).

The largest increase between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 was seen across the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (280 headcount; 280 FTE).

Background notes

  1. Basic Quality Information

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

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

  2. Relevance to Users

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

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

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

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

    Permanent employees, as defined in Tables 9 and 11 (481.5 Kb Excel sheet) , 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 2012 to Q4 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 Q3 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 (481.5 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 Rates

      Response (% of questionnaires returned) Response (% of employment)
    Local Authorities Survey 93 96
    Public Bodies Survey 91 94
    Civil Service Survey 100 100
    Other Sources (see below) 100 100

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Download table

    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.

    External Sources

      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 of Education)
    Other Central Government Great Britain Quarterly Public Sector and Employment Survey (ONS); Probation Service and Police Strength
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Local Government
    Local Authorities England and Wales Quarterly Public Sector and Employment Survey (ONS)
    Scotland Joint Staffing Watch (Scottish Government)
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Police (including civilians) England and Wales Home Office
    Scotland Joint Staffing Watch (Scottish Government)
    Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel
    Public Corporations
    Great Britain Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (ONS)
      Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Download table

    ONS is now able to produce regional estimates of PSE based on returns from public sector organisations ( Table 6 (481.5 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 (463 Kb Pdf) article published in October 2005.

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

    Sector classification and machinery of government changes in the period since 31 December 2011 are listed here:

    Sector Classification and Machinery of Government Changes, 1 January 2012 - 31 December 2012

    Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) During Q4 2012, 25 staff transferred from HMCTS to Ministry of Justice HQ.
    National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) During Q4 2012, 510 FTE transferred from the NPIA to the Home Office HQ. 
    Asset Protection Agency  Closed on 31 October 2012.  
    Criminal Record Bureau The Disclosurse and Barring Service was established on 1 December 2012 following the merger of the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
    Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) As of 31 July 2012 CMEC was subsumed into the Department for Work and Pensions.
    National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) During Q2 2012, around 200 staff transferred from NOMS to the Ministry of Justice.
    Better Regulation Delivery Office During Q2 2012, the Better Regulation Delivery Office (approx 30 staff) transferred into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
    Education Funding Agency An Executive Agency of the Department for Education, established 1 April 2012. This brings together the functions of Partnership for Schools, the Young People's Learning Agency and the maintained schools funding division of the Department for Education.
    National College The National College of School Leadership became an Executive Agency of the Department for Education on 1 April 2012. This was previously an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body.
    Teaching Agency An Executive Agency of the Department for Education, established on 1 April 2012. The Teaching Agency has taken over some of the functions of the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the General Teaching Council for England.
    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.

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Download table

  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)).

    Financial Institutions Classified to the Public Sector

    Period  Headcount Full-time equivalent
    Q1 20081 9,300 8,700
    Q2 2008 9,400 8,800
    Q3 20082 10,700 10,100
    Q4 20083 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 20124 192,000 176,400
    Q2 2012 188,800 173,500
    Q3 2012 185,500 170,500
    Q4 2012 182,200 167,900

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Table notes:

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

    Download table

  9. Further Education Colleges

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

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

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

  10. The Census

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

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

  11. 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). 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 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.

  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 Kb Pdf) .

  14. Copyright and reproduction

    © Crown copyright 2013

    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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