Total UK public sector employment decreased by 12,000 from June 2015 to 5.349 million, which is its lowest level, on a headcount basis, since the start of the series in 1999. On the same period a year ago, public sector employment fell by 59,000
Employment in UK local government, at 2.257 million, was 12,000 lower than at June 2015. This is the lowest level shown since the beginning of the series in 1999
Employment in UK central government, at 2.911 million, was 2,000 lower than at June 2015
Employment in UK public corporations, at 181,000, was 2,000 higher than at June 2015 but 3,000 lower than at September 2014
Private sector employment, at 25.953 million, increased by 219,000 compared with June 2015 and was 565,000 higher than at September 2014. Private sector employment has risen in every quarter from December 2011. This is the highest recorded level in the series
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 (115.9 Kb Pdf) article.
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 reference tables.
Revisions have been made to the series in line with the public sector employment revisions policy (background note 3 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 PSE.
A new naming convention has been introduced in this bulletin. March, June, September and December will now be used rather than Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 respectively to denote the period for which employment is recorded.Back to table of contents
In September 2015, total UK public sector employment (PSE) was 5.349 million, 1.022 million (16.0%) lower than the peak level of 6.371 million seen in September 2009. This represents a fall of 12,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and 59,000 (1.1%) on the previous year.
Without the effects of major reclassifications between public and private sectors, PSE fell by 48,000 (0.9%) on the previous year.
Figure 1 shows that in September 2015 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 September 2015, employment in local government fell by 12,000 (0.5%) on the previous quarter and by 72,000 (3.1%) on the previous year. Figure 2 shows the decreasing trend in local government employment since June 2010 and the September 2015 level is the lowest shown since the series began.
In September 2015, employment in central government decreased by 2,000 (0.1%) on the previous quarter but increased by 16,000 (0.6%) on the previous year. This is mainly due to academy conversions (see below) over the period and an increase in NHS employment.
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 September 2015, employment shifted from local government to central government by 4,000 on the quarter and 33,000 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 September 2015, employment in UK public corporations increased by 2,000 (1.1%) on the previous quarter but decreased by 3,000 (1.6%) on the previous year.
In September 2015, Civil Service employment was 425,000. This is a decrease of 6,000 (1.4%) on the previous quarter and 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
Since June 2012, the NHS has employed the largest number of public sector workers. At September 2015, the NHS accounted for around 30% of all PSE. Employment in the NHS increased by 3,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and by 18,000 (1.1%) on the previous year.
In September 2015, employment in public sector education decreased by 10,000 (0.7%) on the previous quarter and by 6,000 (0.4%) 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 September 2015, employment in public administration fell by 3,000 (0.3%) on the previous quarter and by 35,000 (3.3%) on the previous year, and is the lowest level recorded since the series began.
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 September 2015, employment in the category 'other public sector' decreased by 1,000 (0.2%) on the previous quarter and by 9,000 (1.7%) on the previous year.
Other health and social work
This category covers all health and social work not covered by the NHS.
In September 2015, employment in 'other health and social work' decreased by 5,000 (2.0%) on the previous quarter and by 17,000 (6.5%) on the previous year.
In September 2015, employment in the Police was unchanged when compared with June 2015. In the year to September 2015, employment in the Police fell by 2,000 (0.8%). Employment in the Police has seen a decreasing trend since September 2009; however, the rate of decrease has now lessened. This is shown in Figure 5.
In September 2015, employment in HM Forces was unchanged on the previous quarter but fell by 4,000 (2.5%) on the same quarter a year ago. Figure 5 shows the steady fall in employment in HM Forces since March 2010.
In September 2015, employment in public sector construction fell by 1,000 (2.9%) on the previous quarter and by 5,000 (12.8%) on the previous year.
Figure 5 shows the downward trend in employment in public sector construction from the beginning of the series in March 1999. From the start of 2012, the rate of decrease has lessened.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 decreased between June and September 2015, with employment in the private sector continuing to rise. Just over 17% of people in work are employed in the public sector.
The number of people employed in the private sector in September 2015 is estimated to be 25.953 million and is the highest recorded since the start of the series. Total UK private sector employment increased by 219,000 (0.9%) compared with June 2015 and 565,000 (2.2%) compared with September 2014. Total UK public sector employment decreased by 12,000 (0.2%) compared with June 2015 and 59,000 (1.1%) compared with September 2014.
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 226,000 (0.9%) on the previous quarter and 554,000 (2.2%) on the previous year. On this basis, total UK public sector employment decreased by 19,000 (0.4%) on the previous quarter and 48,000 (0.9%) on the previous year.
Public and private sector employment by 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 region
Almost all of the September 2015 regional PSE headcount estimates are lower than the corresponding September 2014 estimates, as shown in Figure 7. London showed a small increase.
Wales (19,000; 6.2%) showed the largest level fall in PSE in the year to September 2015. In London, PSE increased by 1,000 (0.1%) in the year to September 2015.
The size of the fall in Wales is partly explained by the reclassification of 12,000 employees of Welsh further education colleges into the private sector in March 2015.
Private sector employment by region
In the year to September 2015, private sector employment increased in all of the 12 regions, as seen in Figure 8. The largest increases in employment level were in the South East (106,000; 3.0%) and the North West (92,000; 3.4%), followed by the South West (75,000; 3.4%) and London (70,000; 1.7%).
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 September 2015.
Northern Ireland (25.7%), Wales (21.6%) and Scotland (20.9%) showed the highest public sector employment proportions.
At September 2015, the North East (20.2%) remains the English region with the highest public sector employment proportion. London (14.8%) had the lowest proportion.Back to table of contents
At September 2015, employment in the UK Home Civil Service decreased by 6,000 (1.4%) compared with June 2015.
The largest decrease was reported by the Department for Work and Pensions (4,630). Decreases were also reported by Defence, Equipment and Support (1,000) and the Home Office (590).
The largest increases were reported by the National Offender Management Service (360) and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (300).
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 June 2015 and September 2015, total employment in executive NDPBs decreased by 530.Back to table of contents
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