Total UK public sector employment was 5.347 million. This was 3,000 higher than at September 2015 but 50,000 lower than at December 2014.
Employment in UK local government, at 2.229 million, was 15,000 lower than at September 2015. This is the lowest level shown since the series began in 1999.
Employment in UK central government, at 2.945 million, was 26,000 higher than at September 2015.
Employment in UK public corporations, at 173,000, was 8,000 lower than at September 2015.
Private sector employment, at 26.071 million, was 113,000 higher than at September 2015 and 529,000 higher than at December 2014. Private sector employment has risen in every quarter from December 2011. This is the highest recorded level in the series.Back to table of contents
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 report.
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 datasets.
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.
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 published month.
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 public sector employment.Back to table of contents
In December 2015, total UK public sector employment (PSE) was 5.347 million, 1.024 million (16.1%) lower than the peak level of 6.371 million seen in September 2009. This represents a rise of 3,000 (0.1%) on the previous quarter and a fall of 50,000 (0.9%) on the previous year.
Without the effects of major reclassifications between public and private sectors, PSE fell by 40,000 (0.8%) on the previous year.
Figure 1 shows that in December 2015 total UK PSE is below the level when the series started in March 1999. There has been a downward trend in total UK PSE since its peak in September 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 December 2015, employment in local government was 2.229 million, which represents a fall of 15,000 (0.7%) on the previous quarter and 79,000 (3.4%) on the previous year. Figure 2 shows the decreasing trend in local government employment since June 2010. The December 2015 level is the lowest shown since the series began.
In December 2015, employment in central government, at 2.945 million, increased by 26,000 (0.9%) on the previous quarter and 32,000 (1.1%) on the previous year. This is mainly due to an increase in NHS employment and academy conversions (see below) over the period. The December 2015 level is the highest shown since the series began.
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 December 2015, employment shifted from local government to central government by 7,000 on the quarter and 40,000 on the year, due to academy conversions.
In June 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. In March 2015, Welsh further education colleges were reclassified and an approximate 12,000 employees moved from central government to the private sector.
UK public corporations
In December 2015, employment in UK public corporations was 173,000. This is a decrease of 8,000 (4.4%) on the previous quarter and 3,000 (1.7%) on the previous year. The December 2015 level is the lowest shown since the series began.
In December 2015, Civil Service employment was 423,000. This is a decrease of 2,000 (0.5%) on the previous quarter and 16,000 (3.6%) on the previous year.
Figure 3 shows the downward trend in Civil Service employment since June 2005, when it was at its highest level of 571,000. The December 2015 level is the lowest shown since the start of the series in 1999.Back to table of contents
In December 2015, employment in the NHS was 1.611 million. This represents a rise of 20,000 (1.3%) on the previous quarter and 27,000 (1.7%) on the previous year.
Since June 2012, the NHS has employed the largest number of public sector workers. At December 2015, the NHS accounted for around 30% of all PSE.
In December 2015, employment in public sector education was 1.513 million. This was 3,000 (0.2%) higher than for the previous quarter but 6,000 (0.4%) lower than for the previous year.
Prior to June 2012 public sector education employed the largest number of public sector workers.
Figure 4 shows the significant fall in public sector education in June 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.
In December 2015, employment in public administration increased by 1,000 (0.1%) on the previous quarter to 1.021 million. On the same period a year ago, it decreased by 30,000 (2.9%).
Figure 4 shows the general downward trend in employment in public administration since September 2009.
Other public sector
The category 'other public sector' covers all industries that have not been specified elsewhere, such as financial institutions.
In December 2015, employment in the category 'other public sector' was 518,000. This represents a decrease of 8,000 (1.5%) on the previous quarter and 9,000 (1.7%) on the previous year.
Other health and social work
This category covers all health and social work not covered by the NHS.
In December 2015, employment in 'other health and social work' was 242,000. This was 3,000 (1.2%) lower than at September 2015 and 17,000 (6.6%) lower than the previous year.
In December 2015, employment in the Police, at 249,000, was 2,000 (0.8%) lower than at September 2015 and 6,000 (2.4%) lower than a year earlier. Employment in the Police has seen a decreasing trend since September 2009; however, the rate of decrease has now lessened. This is shown in Figure 5.
In December 2015, employment in HM Forces was 158,000. This was 1,000 (0.6%) lower than at September 2015 and 3,000 (1.9%) lower than at December 2014. Figure 5 shows the steady fall in employment in HM Forces since March 2010.
In December 2015, employment in public sector construction, at 34,000, was unchanged compared with the previous quarter. In the year to December 2015, it fell by 4,000 (10.5%).
Figure 5 shows the downward trend in employment in public sector construction from the beginning of the series in March 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 showed a small increase between September and December 2015, with employment in the private sector continuing to rise. 17% of people in work are employed in the public sector; this is the lowest percentage since the series began in 1999.
Total UK public and private sector employment
The number of people employed in the private sector in December 2015 is estimated to be 26.071 million and is the highest recorded since the start of the series in 1999. Total UK private sector employment increased by 113,000 (0.4%) compared with September 2015 and 529,000 (2.1%) compared with December 2014. Total UK public sector employment increased by 3,000 (0.1%) compared with September 2015 but decreased by 50,000 (0.9%) compared with December 2014.
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 108,000 (0.4%) on the previous quarter and by 519,000 (2.0%) on the previous year. On this basis, total UK public sector employment increased by 8,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter but decreased by 40,000 (0.8%) on the previous year.
Public and private sector employment by UK 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 and changes should be calculated from the previous year. Each series begins at March 2008.
Public sector employment by UK region
Almost all of the December 2015 regional PSE headcount estimates are lower than the corresponding December 2014 estimates, as shown in Figure 7.
In the year to December 2015, the largest level falls in PSE were shown in Wales (21,000; 6.7%), followed by Yorkshire and The Humber (7,000; 1.4%) and Northern Ireland (5,000; 2.5%). Small increases were shown in the East of England (1,000; 0.3%) and the South West (1,000; 0.2%).
The size of the fall in Wales is partly explained by the reclassification of 12,000 employees of Welsh further education colleges into the private sector in March 2015.
Private sector employment by UK region
In the year to December 2015, private sector employment increased in all of the 12 UK regions, as seen in Figure 8. The largest increases in employment level were in the South East (95,000; 2.7%) and Wales (79,000; 7.6%), followed by the North West (72,000; 2.6%) and the East Midlands (67,000; 3.8%).
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 December 2015.
Northern Ireland (25.7%), Wales (20.9%) and Scotland (20.9%) showed the highest public sector employment proportions.
At December 2015, the North East (19.9%) remains the English region with the highest public sector employment proportion. London (14.8%) had the lowest proportion.Back to table of contents
At December 2015, employment in the UK Home Civil Service decreased by 2,000 (0.5%) compared with September 2015 to 423,000.
Historic Scotland merged with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland to become Historic Environment Scotland, an executive NDPB of the Scottish Government, resulting in a loss of 1,200 employees from the Civil Service.
The next largest decreases were reported by the Home Office (780), the Ministry of Defence (excluding trading funds) (210) and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (190). The largest increases were reported by HM Revenue and Customs (excluding agencies) (400) and the Land Registry (200).
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 September 2015 and December 2015, total employment in executive NDPBs increased by 1,510 to 79,080.Back to table of contents
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