Total public sector employment was an estimated 5.56 million for September 2020, an increase of 8,000 (0.1%) compared with June 2020 and an increase of 143,000 (2.6%) compared with September 2019.
Employment in public corporations was 199,000, up 44,000 (28.4%) on the previous year mainly because train operating companies transferred to the public sector in June 2020; on the previous quarter it is down 3,000 (1.5%) mainly because housing associations in Northern Ireland transferred back to the private sector in September 2020.
The National Health Service employed an estimated 1.78 million people in September 2020, a decrease of 7,000 (0.4%) compared with June 2020 but an increase of 65,000 (3.8%) compared with September 2019; the increase since the previous year was impacted by the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic between March and June 2020.
Employment in central government increased to an estimated 3.35 million for September 2020, up 5,000 (0.1%) compared with June 2020 and up 104,000 (3.2%) compared with September 2019; the main contributors to this increase were local authority schools becoming academies, the Civil Service, and for the annual increase, the NHS.
Employment in local government was an estimated 2.01 million and little changed on the previous quarter and previous year, up 6,000 (0.3%) compared with June 2020 but down 5,000 (0.2%) compared with September 2019; an increase in employment in the police has been offset by falls in local authorities.
Employment in the Home Civil Service continued to increase in September 2020; at 463,000 it was up 4,000 (0.9%) compared with June 2020 and 12,000 (2.7%) compared with September 2019.
There were 26.96 million people estimated to be working in the private sector in September 2020, 151,000 (0.6%) lower than for June 2020 and 422,000 (1.5%) lower than for September 2019.
Public sector employment
Dataset | Released 15 December 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 December 2020
Seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted quarterly time series of UK public sector employment, containing the latest estimates.
For this month's release revisions have been made to the public sector employment estimates back to the start of the quarterly data time series in 1999.
Train operating companies (TOCs) in England, Scotland and Wales running under emergency measures agreements (EMAs) were reclassified to the public sector from April 2020 and are now included in the public sector employment estimates from June 2020. The public sector employment series affected by this are public corporations, other public sector, total public sector and private sector. More information on these classification changes can be found in our news articles for train operating companies in England and Scotland and the Wales and Borders rail operator.
Estimates for March and June 2020 of total employment and private sector employment derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) have been revised because of a change in weighting methodology. More information can be found in the Labour market overview, UK: October 2020 release and an article Coronavirus and its impact on the Labour Force Survey.
We also reviewed the seasonal adjustment process for the public sector employment series.
For more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see the article published on 6 May 2020, which details some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.
An article published 11 December 2020 compares our labour market data sources and discusses some of the main differences.
Our latest data and analysis on the impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy and population are available on our dedicated coronavirus web page. This is the hub for all special coronavirus-related publications, drawing on all available data. In response to the developing coronavirus 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.
Impact on production of public sector employment estimates
For September 2020, the Public Sector Employment Survey received 93% response to all questionnaires, compared with 93% for June 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.
End of EU exit transition period
After the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, the UK statistical system will continue to collect and produce our wide range of economic and social statistics. We are committed to continued alignment with international statistical standards, enabling comparability both over time and internationally and we will work with users of statistics to make sure they have the data they need to support the decisions they have to make.
As the shape of the UK’s future statistical relationship with the EU becomes clearer over the coming period, the ONS is making preparations to assume responsibilities that as part of our membership of the EU, and during the transition period, were delegated to the statistical office of the EU, Eurostat. This includes responsibilities relating to international comparability of economic statistics, deciding what international statistical guidance to apply in the UK context and to provide further scrutiny of our statistics and sector classification decisions.
In applying international statistical standards and best practice to UK economic statistics, we will draw on the technical advice of experts in the UK and internationally, and our work will be underpinned by the UK’s well-established and robust framework for independent official statistics, set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Further information on our proposals will be made available in early 2021.
We will continue to produce our labour market statistics in line with the UK Statistics Authority's Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) definitions and agreed international statistical guidance.
The main source of public sector employment (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.
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.
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.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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