Total UK public sector employment decreased by 22,000 from Q4 2014 to 5.372 million, which is its lowest level, on a headcount basis, since the start of the series in 1999. On the same period a year ago, public sector employment fell by 59,000
Employment in UK local government, at 2.283 million, was 23,000 lower than at Q4 2014. This is the lowest level shown since the beginning of the series in 1999
Employment in UK central government, at 2.909 million, was 2,000 lower than at Q4 2014
Employment in UK public corporations, at 180,000, was 3,000 higher than at Q4 2014 and is 282,000 lower than the figure from two years ago, following the reclassifications of Royal Mail plc and Lloyds Banking Group into the private sector
Private sector employment increased by 136,000, to 25.681 million, compared with Q4 2014 and was 483,000 higher than at Q1 2014. Private sector employment has risen in every quarter from Q4 2011. This is the highest recorded level in the series
Public sector employment (PSE) figures are derived from a range of sources. The main source is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey which comprises three separate data collections: local authorities in England and Wales, the home Civil Service, and public bodies in Great Britain. The survey aims to obtain complete coverage of local government and the Civil Service, and coverage of all public bodies with 20 or more employees. It is difficult to achieve complete coverage for local and central government, for example in the education sector. Information on quality can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information for Public Sector Employment (115.9 Kb Pdf) article.
Headcount estimates of PSE are presented by sector classification, industry and region. Civil Service employment is shown by government department and agency. Employment in executive non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) has been aggregated by sponsoring department. Reclassifications between the public and private sectors, which affect the trends, are also addressed. Full-time equivalent estimates of PSE are available in the accompanying reference tables.
Revisions have been made to the series in line with the public sector employment revisions policy (background note 3 has further details).
Summary PSE statistics from this release are also published in the monthly UK Labour Market statistical release. The UK Labour Market release provides a comprehensive picture of the structure and size of the UK labour market each month. The quarterly PSE statistics are published on the same day as the UK Labour Market figures each quarter.
In this bulletin, Q1 is used as short hand for quarter 1 (January to March), Q2 refers to quarter 2 (April to June), Q3 refers to quarter 3 (July to September) and Q4 refers to quarter 4 (October to December). However it is important to note that the Public Sector Employment estimates are point in time employment estimates and relate to a specific day in the third month of the quarter each time.
These statistics are mainly used to monitor changes in the number of people employed in the UK public and private sector. They are the official measure of UK PSE.Back to table of contents
In Q1 2015, total UK public sector employment (PSE) was 5.37 million, 15.7% lower than the peak level seen in Q3 2009. This represents a fall of 22,000 (0.4%) on the previous quarter and 59,000 (1.1%) on the previous year.
Without the effects of major reclassifications between public and private sectors, PSE fell by 10,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and by 42,000 (0.8%) on the previous year.
Figure 1 shows that in Q1 2015 total UK PSE is just below the level when the series started in Q1 1999. There has been a downward trend in total UK PSE since its peak in Q3 2009.Back to table of contents
The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations as defined for the UK National Accounts.
In Q1 2015, employment in local government fell by 23,000 (1.0%) on the previous quarter and by 85,000 (3.6%) on the previous year. Figure 2 shows the decreasing trend in local government employment since Q2 2010 and the Q1 2015 level is the lowest shown since the series began.
In Q1 2015, employment in central government decreased by 2,000 (0.1%) on the previous quarter but increased by 31,000 (1.1%) on the previous year. This is partly due to academy conversions over the period and an increase in NHS employment.
Factors affecting employment in local and central government
There is an ongoing shift of employment from local government to central government, as a result of local authority maintained schools converting to academy status. Academies are classified to central government, whereas local authority maintained schools are classified to local government. As a result, whenever a local authority maintained school becomes an academy, its employees move from local government to central government.
In Q1 2015, employment shifted from local government to central government by 14,000 on the quarter and 53,000 on the year, due to academy conversions.
In Q2 2012, English further education colleges were reclassified and an approximate 176,000 employees moved from central government to the private sector. English sixth-form college corporations were also reclassified from local government to the private sector; there was a transfer of employees with an approximate headcount of 20,000. This quarter, Welsh further education colleges were reclassified and an approximate 12,000 employees moved from central government to the private sector.
UK public corporations
In Q1 2015, employment in UK public corporations increased by 3,000 (1.7%) on the previous quarter and decreased by 5,000 (2.7%) on the previous year.
In Q1 2015, Civil Service employment was 440,000. This is an increase of 1,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and the same as the previous year.
Figure 3 shows the downward trend in Civil Service employment since Q2 2005, when it was at its highest level of 571,000.Back to table of contents
Since Q2 2012, the NHS has employed the largest number of public sector workers. At Q1 2015 the NHS accounted for around 29.5% of all PSE. At Q1 2015 employment in the NHS increased by 4,000 (0.3%) on the previous quarter and 13,000 (0.8%) on the previous year.
In Q1 2015 employment in public sector education decreased by 3,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and decreased by 4,000 (0.3%) on the previous year.
Prior to Q2 2012 public sector education employed the largest number of public sector workers. Figure 4 shows the significant fall in public sector education in Q2 2012, as a result of the reclassification of English further education colleges and sixth form college corporations into the private sector.
Public administration includes all administrative duties of local and central government.
Employment in public administration fell by 9,000 (0.9%) on the previous quarter and 24,000 (2.3%) on the previous year, and is the lowest level recorded since the series began.
Figure 4 shows the general downward trend in employment in public administration since Q3 2009.
Other public sector
The category 'other public sector' covers all industries that have not been specified elsewhere, such as financial institutions.
In Q1 2015 employment in the category 'other public sector' increased by 5,000 (1.0%) on the previous quarter and decreased by 8,000 (1.5%) on the previous year.
Other health and social work
This category covers all health and social work not covered by the NHS.
In Q1 2015 employment in 'other health and social work' fell by 7,000 (2.7%) on the previous quarter and by 24,000 (8.7%) on the previous year.
In Q1 2015 employment in the Police fell by 1,000 (0.4%) when compared with Q4 2014. In the year to Q1 2015 employment in the Police fell by 3,000 (1.2%). Employment in the Police has seen a decreasing trend since Q3 2009. This is shown in Figure 5.
In Q1 2015 employment in HM Forces remained the same compared to the previous quarter and fell by 6,000 (3.6%) on the same quarter a year ago. Figure 5 shows the steady fall in employment in HM Forces since Q1 2010.
In Q1 2015, employment in public sector construction fell by 2,000 (5.3%) on the previous quarter and by 3,000 (7.7%) on the previous year.
Figure 5 shows the downward trend in employment in public sector construction from the beginning of the series in Q1 1999. From the start of 2012 the rate of decrease has lessened.Back to table of contents
Private sector employment estimates are derived as the difference between total UK employment estimates sourced from the Labour Force Survey and the public sector employment estimates collected from public sector organisations.
Total employment in the public sector decreased during Q1 2015, with employment in the private sector continuing to rise. Just over 17% of the working population are employed in the public sector.
Total UK public and private sector employment
The number of people employed in the private sector in Q1 2015 is estimated to be 25.681 million and is the highest recorded since the start of the series. Total UK private sector employment increased by 136,000 (0.5%) compared with Q4 2014. Total UK public sector employment decreased by 22,000 (0.4%) over the same period.
The public and private sector employment series have been affected by a number of major reclassifications where bodies employing large numbers of people have moved between public and private sectors. Figure 6 shows the series excluding the effect of major reclassifications.
With the effect of major reclassifications removed, total UK private sector employment increased by 124,000 (0.5%) on the previous quarter and by 466,000 (1.8%) on the previous year. On this basis, total UK public sector employment decreased by 10,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and by 42,000 (0.8%) on the previous year.
Public and private sector employment by region
Seasonally adjusted series are not available when public and private sector employment is split by region. Therefore any differences between quarters in the published regional tables may be due to seasonal effects. Each series begins at Q1 2008.
Public sector employment by region
All of the Q1 2015 regional PSE headcount estimates, except the South East, are lower than the corresponding Q1 2014 estimates, as shown in Figure 7.
Wales (19,000; 5.9%) and East Midlands (9,000; 2.5%) showed the largest employment level falls in PSE in the year to Q1 2015.
The size of the fall in Wales is partly explained by the reclassification this quarter of 12,000 employees of Welsh further education colleges into the private sector.
Private sector employment by region
In the year to Q1 2015, private sector employment increased in all of the 12 regions except East of England which decreased by 3,000 (0.1%), as seen in Figure 8. The largest increase in employment level was in the North West (111,000; 4.2%), followed by London (73,000; 1.8%).
Proportion of total employment employed by the public sector
Figure 9 shows the proportion of all those in employment employed in the public sector for each UK region at Q1 2015.
Northern Ireland (26.6%), Wales (22.4%) and Scotland (20.9%) showed the highest public sector employment proportions.
At Q1 2015, the North East (20.4%) remains the English region with the highest public sector employment proportion. London (15.0%) had the lowest proportion.Back to table of contents
At Q1 2015, employment in the UK Home Civil Service increased by 1,000 compared with Q4 2014.
The largest increases were in the National Offender Management Service (910) and the Home Office (620).
The largest decrease was in HM Revenue and Customs (excluding agencies) (640).
These bodies usually deliver a particular public service and are overseen by a board rather than ministers. Employment in executive NDPBs has been aggregated by sponsoring department.
Between Q4 2014 and Q1 2015, total employment in executive NDPBs remained flat.Back to table of contents
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