1. Main points
Total public sector employment increased in December 2022 compared with the previous quarter and the previous year; central government is the main contributor to the rise, with employment in local government and public corporations being little changed compared with the previous quarter and previous year.
There were an estimated 5.80 million employees in the public sector in December 2022, which is 34,000 (0.6%) more than in September 2022 and 84,000 (1.5%) more than in December 2021.
Employment in central government was an estimated 3.61 million in December 2022, a rise of 32,000 (0.9%) compared with September 2022 and 84,000 (2.4%) compared with December 2021; the main contributors to this increase were the NHS, local authority schools becoming academies, and the Civil Service.
The NHS employed an estimated 1.92 million people in December 2022, an increase of 17,000 (0.9%) compared with September 2022 and an increase of 53,000 (2.8%) compared with December 2021.
Employment in local government was an estimated 2.00 million for December 2022, an increase of 2,000 (0.1%) since September 2022, but a decrease of 3,000 (0.2%) since December 2021.
There were 515,000 employees in the Civil Service in December 2022, up 2,000 (0.4%) compared with September 2022, and up 8,000 (1.6%) compared with December 2021.
There were an estimated 27.04 million employees in the private sector in December 2022, which is 32,000 (0.1%) more than in September 2022 and 225,000 (0.8%) more than in December 2021.
2. Public sector employment data
Public sector employment
Dataset | Released 14 March 2023
Quarterly estimates of UK and regional public sector employment made up of central government (including Civil Service), local government and public corporations. The estimates also include a breakdown by industry.
Public sector employment time series
Dataset | Dataset ID: PSE | Released 14 March 2023
Seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted quarterly time series of UK public sector employment, containing the latest estimates.
3. Measuring the data
Reclassification of further education institutions in England
On 29 November 2022, we announced the reclassification of further education corporations, sixth form college corporations, and designated institutions in England from the non-profit institutions serving households (NPISH) sector to the central government sector. Our Economic statistics sector classification - classification update and forward work plan: November 2022 article has more information on this classification decision.
This reclassification is not yet reflected in the latest public sector employment statistics but will be implemented in due course and announced three months before implementation.
Our Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics article has more information about how labour market sources have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
View our Comparison of labour market data sources and the main differences article.
Impact on production of public sector employment estimates
The collection of the data contained in this release was unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic. Comments provided by survey respondents suggested the estimates were partly affected by coronavirus planning and response.
The main source of public sector employment (PSE) data is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey, which is supplemented by data from external sources. Further information can be found in our PSE Quality and methodology information (QMI).
While this bulletin focuses on headcount estimates of PSE, full-time equivalent estimates (based on the number of hours worked divided by the standard full-time hours) are available in our accompanying PSE datasets.
All PSE data time series in our release, with the exception of the regional series, are seasonally adjusted to aid interpretation. Relationships that hold in the unadjusted series do not necessarily hold for the seasonally adjusted series. For example, total PSE equals the total of all public sector industry estimates before seasonal adjustment, but this is not necessarily true after seasonal adjustment.
Reclassifications between the public and private sectors
Comparisons of public and private sector employment over time are complicated by several major reclassifications. This is where bodies employing large numbers of people have moved between the public and private sectors. We produce estimates of public and private sector employment excluding the effects of major reclassifications to help you understand underlying trends in employment. We publish these alongside estimates of total public and private sector employment in Tables 5, 6a and 7a of our PSE datasets.
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Public sector employment QMI.Back to table of contents
5. Cite this statistical bulletin
Office for National Statistics (ONS), published 14 March 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Public sector employment, UK: December 2022
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 456741