Public sector employment, UK: June 2018

The official measure of people employed in the UK public sector, including private sector estimates, based on the difference between total UK employment and public sector employment.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Richard Clegg

Release date:
11 September 2018

Next release:
11 December 2018

1. Main points

  • For June 2018, there were 5.34 million people employed in the public sector, 4,000 fewer than for March 2018; this small fall was entirely due to the transfer of Welsh housing associations to the private sector.

  • Excluding the Welsh housing associations transfer, the number of people employed in the public sector increased by 16,000 between March and June 2018.

  • Between June 2017 and June 2018, public sector employment fell by 122,000; this large fall was entirely due to the transfer of housing associations in England (in December 2017) and in Wales (in June 2018) to the private sector.

  • Excluding the housing associations transfer, the number of people employed in the public sector increased by 34,000 between June 2017 and June 2018, mainly due to more people working for the National Health Service.

  • For June 2018, there were 27.06 million people working in the private sector, 383,000 more than for a year earlier; excluding the housing associations transfer the annual increase in private sector employment was 227,000.

  • For June 2018, of all people in paid work, 16.5% were employed in the public sector and the remaining 83.5% were employed in the private sector.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

The estimates of public and private sector employment published in this month’s release have been impacted by the reclassification of Welsh housing associations, which are included in the private sector for June 2018 but are included in the public sector for earlier time periods. This reclassification has resulted in around 12,000 employees who were included in the public sector for March 2018 being included in the private sector estimates for June 2018.

This bulletin presents the latest quarterly estimates of UK public sector employment (PSE). The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations as defined for the UK National Accounts.

These statistics are used mainly to monitor changes in the number of people employed in the UK public and private sectors and to inform policy-making across government.

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) is aggregated by sponsoring department.

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.

The PSE estimates are point-in-time employment estimates and relate to a specific day in the published month.

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. It is difficult to achieve complete coverage for local and central government, for example, in the education sector. Further information can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information report.

All time series in this release, except for 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.

Comparisons of public and private sector employment over time are complicated by a number of 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.

Consistent with the revisions policy for public sector employment statistics, the statistics are subject to revisions. Revisions can be made for a variety of reasons, the most common include:

  • to account for late information from respondents

  • to account for recent classifications to the public sector

  • to update seasonal factors (updated quarterly and reviewed annually)

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3. Public sector employment falls slightly

There were 5.34 million employees in the public sector for June 2018, down 4,000 (0.1%) compared with March 2018 and down 122,000 (2.2%) compared with June 2017. These quarterly and annual movements in public sector employment have been affected by the transfer of housing associations in England (in December 2017) and in Wales (in June 2018) to the private sector.

Excluding the effects of the transfer of English and Welsh housing associations, public sector employment increased by 16,000 between March and June 2018 and by 34,000 between June 2017 and June 2018.

Of all people in paid work, 16.5% were employed in the public sector for June 2018, the same as for March 2018.

Figure 1 shows trends in total public sector employment and public sector employment excluding major reclassifications since comparable records began in 1999.

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4. Central government employment continues to rise while local government employment continues to fall

The latest figures show a continuing trend of more people employed in central government and fewer people employed in local government, mainly due to some local authority schools in England converting to academy status.

The number of people employed in central government continues to increase to reach a new record high of 3.11 million for June 2018. It is up 15,000 (0.5%) compared with March 2018 and up 98,000 (3.3%) compared with June 2017, as shown in Figure 2.

The number of people employed in local government continues to fall to reach a new record low of 2.05 million for June 2018. It is down 5,000 (0.2%) compared with March 2018 and down 65,000 (3.1%) compared with June 2017, as shown in Figure 2.

The number of people employed in public corporations fell 14,000 (7.1%) between March 2018 and June 2018. This was almost entirely due to the transfer of Welsh housing associations to the private sector. Between June 2017 and June 2018, employment in public corporations fell by 155,000 (45.7%), mainly due to the transfer of both English and Welsh housing associations to the private sector.

The academies impact

The composition of the public sector is changing due to academy conversions in England. Employees move from local government to central government when local authority schools become academies. In June 2018, academy conversions accounted for 14,000 employees over the quarter and 60,000 over the year, as shown in Table 1. A full time series of employment in academies is available in Table 11 of the public sector employment dataset.

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5. Employment in the National Health Service and education rises

For June 2018, there were 1.65 million people employed in the National Health Service. This was:

  • 6,000 more than for March 2018

  • 26,000 more than for a year earlier

  • the highest figure on record

For June 2018, the National Health Service accounted for 30.9% of all people employed in the public sector and 5.1% of all people in paid work in the UK.

For June 2018, there were 1.51 million people employed in public sector education. This was up 5,000 compared both with March 2018 and with a year earlier.

For June 2018, public sector education accounted for 28.3% of all people employed in the public sector and 4.7% of all people in paid work in the UK.

For June 2018, there were 1.03 million people employed in public administration. This was:

  • 5,000 more than for March 2018

  • 18,000 more than for a year earlier

  • the highest figure since March 2015

Figure 3 shows public sector employment by selected industries since the series began in 1999.

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6. Private sector employment is little changed on the quarter but higher than a year earlier

Private sector employment estimates are derived as the difference between total employment estimates, sourced from the Labour Force Survey, and public sector employment estimates collected from public sector organisations.

For June 2018, there were 27.06 million people employed in the private sector. This was:

  • little changed (up 7,000) compared with March 2018

  • 383,000 (1.4%) more than for a year earlier

The transfer of English and Welsh housing associations to the private sector has contributed to these movements in private sector employment. Excluding the effects of the housing association transfers, private sector employment fell slightly (by 13,000) between March and June 2018 but increased by 227,000 (0.8%) between June 2017 and June 2018.

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7. Civil Service employment is little changed on the quarter but up slightly on the year

For June 2018, there were 431,000 people employed in the Home Civil Service (8.1% of total public sector employment). This was:

  • little changed (up 1,000) compared with March 2018

  • 8,000 (1.9%) more than for June 2017

As shown in Figure 5, the Home Civil Service has seen a slow but steady increase in employment since the record low of 416,000 recorded for June, September and December 2016.

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9. Quality and methodology

The Public sector employment (PSE) Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and the users of the data and how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

Response rates

The primary source of the PSE statistics is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES), which comprises three separate data collections: local authorities in England and Wales, public corporations and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) in Great Britain and the Home Civil Service. Our targets for response before the results are compiled are 90% for Local Authorities and Public Bodies QPSES and 100% for Civil Service QPSES. Response rates for the latest period are shown in Table 3.

So that estimates of total public sector employment can be made, it is necessary for further information to be gathered from external sources, listed in Table 4.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Richard Clegg
pse@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455400