Public sector employment, UK: March 2023

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

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Release date:
13 June 2023

Next release:
12 September 2023

1. Main points

  • Total public sector employment increased in March 2023 compared with the previous quarter and the previous year; central government is the main contributor to the rise with little change to local government and public corporations.

  • There were an estimated 5.83 million employees in the public sector in March 2023, which is 31,000 (0.5%) more than in December 2022 and 100,000 (1.7%) more than in March 2022.

  • Employment in central government was an estimated 3.64 million in March 2023, a rise of 27,000 (0.7%) compared with December 2022 and 92,000 (2.6%) compared with March 2022; the main contributors to this increase were the NHS, the Civil Service, and local authority schools becoming academies.

  • The NHS employed an estimated 1.94 million people in March 2023, an increase of 19,000 (1.0%) compared with December 2022 and an increase of 63,000 (3.4%) compared with March 2022.

  • Employment in local government was an estimated 2.00 million for March 2023, an increase of 3,000 (0.2%) since December 2022 and 2,000 (0.1%) since March 2022; an increase in employment in the police has contributed to this increase.

  • There were 521,000 employees in the Civil Service in March 2023, up 6,000 (1.2%) compared with December 2022, and up 9,000 (1.8%) compared with March 2022.

  • There were an estimated 27.26 million employees in the private sector in March 2023, which is 219,000 (0.8%) more than in December 2022 and 282,000 (1.0%) more than in March 2022.

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2. Public sector employment data

Public sector employment
Dataset | Released 13 June 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 13 June 2023
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

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 will be reflected in the June 2023 public sector employment statistics to be released on 12 September 2023.


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).

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 our accompanying PSE datasets.

Seasonal adjustment

All PSE data 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. 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 the 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.

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5. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), published 13 June 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Public sector employment, UK: March 2023

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Neil Hedges
Telephone: +44 1633 456741