Public sector employment, UK: June 2020

Estimates of people employed in the public and private sectors in the UK.

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15 September 2020

Public sector employment analysis for March 2020 was published in the Vacancies, jobs and public sector employment release as we streamlined our publications and resource during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. All future analysis will be published in the Public sector employment bulletin series. All public sector data are available in the accompanying dataset.

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Email Laura Caldwell

Release date:
15 September 2020

Next release:
15 December 2020

1. Main points

  • Total public sector employment (PSE) increased by 39,000 (0.7%) between March and June 2020, mainly because of an increase in employment in the National Health Service in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • Total PSE was an estimated 5.51 million in June 2020, an increase of 115,000 (2.1%) compared with June 2019, and it accounted for 16.7% of all people in paid work.

  • The National Health Service employed an estimated 1.78 million people in June 2020, an increase of 34,000 (1.9%) on March 2020 and 88,000 (5.2%) on June 2019, the highest since records began in 1999; it accounted for 32.4% of all people employed in the public sector and 5.4% of all people in paid work in the UK.

  • Employment in central government increased to an estimated 3.35 million for June 2020, up 45,000 (1.4%) compared with March 2020 and 133,000 (4.1%) compared with June 2019; the main contributors to this increase were the NHS, the Civil Service and local authority schools becoming academies.

  • Employment in local government was an estimated 2.01 million, a decrease of 5,000 (0.2%) compared with March 2020 and 15,000 (0.7%) compared with June 2019; the decrease between March and June 2020 was partly because of a reduction in temporary and casual workers in local authorities during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Employment in the Home Civil Service continued to increase in June 2020; at 459,000 it was up 3,000 (0.7%) compared with March 2020 and 11,000 (2.5%) compared with June 2019; employment in the Department for Work and Pensions increased by 1,150 to meet demand for Universal Credit during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • There were 27.47 million people estimated to be working in the private sector for June 2020, which was down 51,000 (0.2%) compared with March 2020, though up 87,000 (0.3%) compared with June 2019.

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2. Public sector employment data

Public sector employment
Dataset | Released 15 September 2020
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 an industrial breakdown.

Public sector employment time series
Dataset | Dataset ID: PSE | Released 15 September 2020
Seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted quarterly time series of UK public sector employment, containing the latest estimates.

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3. Measuring the data


In response to the developing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are working to ensure that we continue to publish economic statistics. For more information, please see COVID-19 and the production of statistics.

We have reviewed all publications and data published as part of the labour market release in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to the postponement of some publications and datasets to ensure that we can continue to publish our main labour market data. This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of the coronavirus.

For more information on how labour market data sources, among others, will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic , see the statement published on 27 March 2020. A further article published on 6 May 2020, detailed some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.

Our latest data and analysis on the impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy and population is now available on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage. This will be the hub for all special coronavirus-related publications, drawing on all available data.

Impact on production of public sector employment estimates

For June 2020, the Public Sector Employment Survey received 93% response to all questionnaires, compared with 92% for March 2020. The impact on the survey response and levels of imputation and construction are not statistically significant. Survey contributor-level comments provided to us over the telephone or electronically suggested the estimates were partly affected by coronavirus planning and response.


The main source of PSE is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey, which aims to obtain complete coverage of local authorities and the Civil Service, and coverage of all public bodies with 20 or more employees. The survey data are supplemented by data from external sources. Further information can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information report.

Full-time equivalents

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 the accompanying PSE datasets.

Seasonal adjustment

All PSE time series in this 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, 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 the PSE datasets.


More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Public sector employment QMI.

Labour Force Survey estimates

On 13 October 2020, data from our Labour Force Survey (LFS) were reweighted, see article. The total and private sector series within the Public Sector Employment release (table 5, 6, 6a, 7 and 7a) which include some data from the LFS, published on 15 September 2020, are based on previous weighting methodology. These estimates will be revised by 15 December 2020.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Laura Caldwell
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455955