Total UK public sector employment was 5.354 million. This was 6,000 higher than at December 2015 but 21,000 lower than at March 2015.
Employment in UK local government, at 2.211 million, was 17,000 lower than at December 2015. This is the lowest level shown since the series began in 1999.
Employment in UK central government, at 2.963 million, was 18,000 higher than at December 2015.
Private sector employment, at 26.240 million, was 50,000 higher than at December 2015 and 482,000 higher than at March 2015. Private sector employment has risen in every quarter from December 2011. This is the highest recorded level in the series.
Employment in the NHS, at 1.620 million, was 9,000 higher than at December 2015 and 31,000 higher than at March 2015.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 5 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 March 2016, total UK public sector employment (PSE) was 5.354 million, 1.017 million (16.0%) lower than the peak level of 6.371 million seen in September 2009. This represents a rise of 6,000 (0.1%) on the previous quarter and a fall of 21,000 (0.4%) on the previous year.
Without the effects of major reclassifications between public and private sectors, PSE fell by 24,000 (0.5%) on the previous year.
Figure 1 shows that in March 2016 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 March 2016, employment in local government was 2.211 million, which represents a fall of 17,000 (0.8%) on the previous quarter and 73,000 (3.2%) on the previous year. Figure 2 shows the decreasing trend in local government employment since June 2010. The March 2016 level is the lowest shown since the series began.
In March 2016, employment in central government, at 2.963 million, increased by 18,000 (0.6%) on the previous quarter and 50,000 (1.7%) on the previous year. This is mainly due to an increase in NHS employment and academy conversions (see below) over the period. The March 2016 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 March 2016, employment shifted from local government to central government by 6,000 on the quarter and 32,000 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 March 2016, employment in UK public corporations was 180,000. This is an increase of 5,000 (2.9%) on the previous quarter and 2,000 (1.1%) on the previous year.
In March 2016, Civil Service employment was 424,000. This is an increase of 1,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter but a decrease of 15,000 (3.4%) 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.Back to table of contents
In March 2016, employment in the NHS was 1.620 million. This represents a rise of 9,000 (0.6%) on the previous quarter and 31,000 (2.0%) on the previous year.
Since June 2012, the NHS has employed the largest number of public sector workers. At March 2016, the NHS accounted for around 30% of all PSE.
In March 2016, employment in public sector education was 1.515 million. This was 2,000 (0.1%) higher than for the previous quarter but unchanged on 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 March 2016, employment in public administration decreased by 2,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter to 1.019 million. On the same period a year ago, it decreased by 23,000 (2.2%).
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 March 2016, employment in the category 'other public sector' was 528,000. This represents an increase of 9,000 (1.7%) on the previous quarter but a decrease of 3,000 (0.6%) on the previous year.
Other health and social work
This category covers all health and social work not covered by the NHS.
In March 2016, employment in 'other health and social work' was 237,000. This was 4,000 (1.7%) lower than at December 2015 and 16,000 (6.3%) lower than the previous year.
In March 2016, employment in the Police, at 246,000, was 3,000 (1.2%) lower than at December 2015 and 9,000 (3.5%) lower than a year earlier. Employment in the Police has seen a decreasing trend since September 2009, as shown in Figure 5.
In March 2016, employment in HM Forces was 158,000. This was unchanged compared with December 2015 and 3,000 (1.9%) lower than at March 2015. Figure 5 shows the steady fall in employment in HM Forces since March 2010.
In March 2016, employment in public sector construction, at 35,000, was 1,000 (2.9%) higher compared with the previous quarter. In the year to March 2016, it fell by 1,000 (2.8%).
Figure 5 shows the downward trend in employment in public sector construction from the beginning of the series in March 1999.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 December 2015 and March 2016, with employment in the private sector continuing to rise. Of all people in work, 16.9% were employed in the public sector; this is the lowest percentage since the series began in 1999.
In this quarter’s bulletin, there have been revisions to estimates of private sector employment, but not to estimates of public sector employment, from September 2012. These revisions to estimates of private sector employment have resulted from revisions to estimates of total employment sourced from the Labour Force Survey (background note 1 has further details).
Total UK public and private sector employment
The number of people employed in the private sector in March 2016 is estimated to be 26.240 million and is the highest recorded since the start of the series in 1999. Total UK private sector employment increased by 50,000 (0.2%) compared with December 2015 and 482,000 (1.9%) compared with March 2015. Total UK public sector employment increased by 6,000 (0.1%) compared with December 2015 but decreased by 21,000 (0.4%) compared with March 2015.
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 55,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and by 485,000 (1.9%) on the previous year. On this basis, total UK public sector employment increased by 1,000 (0.0%) on the previous quarter but decreased by 24,000 (0.5%) 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
In the year to March 2016, the largest level falls in regional PSE were shown in Wales (6,000; 2.2%) and Northern Ireland (5,000; 2.3%). The largest level increase was in the East of England (3,000; 0.7%). This is shown in Figure 7.
Private sector employment by UK region
In the year to March 2016, private sector employment increased in 11 of the 12 UK regions, as seen in Figure 8. The largest increases in employment level were in London (163,000; 3.9%), the South East (84,000; 2.4%), the East Midlands (72,000; 4.0%) and Wales (70,000; 6.8%). The only decrease was shown in Scotland (53,000; 2.6%).
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 March 2016.
Northern Ireland (25.2%), Scotland (21.3%) and Wales (20.8%) showed the highest public sector employment proportions.
At March 2016, the North East (20.3%) remains the English region with the highest public sector employment proportion. London (14.3%) had the lowest proportion.Back to table of contents
At March 2016, employment in the UK Home Civil Service increased by 1,000 (0.2%) compared with December 2015 to 424,000.
The largest increases were reported by the Department for Work and Pensions (490), HM Revenue and Customs (excluding agencies) (460) and the National Offender Management Service (290). The largest decreases were reported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (excluding agencies) (210) and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (210).
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 December 2015 and March 2016, total employment in executive NDPBs increased by 860 to 79,960.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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