Public sector employment, UK: September 2023

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

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15 December 2023 13:55

An minor error was identified in the footnote section of tables 8 and 9. This has been corrected.

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Release date:
12 December 2023

Next release:
12 March 2024

1. Main points

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

  • There were an estimated 5.90 million employees in the public sector in September 2023, which is 35,000 (0.6%) more than in June 2023 and 135,000 (2.3%) more than in September 2022.

  • Employment in central government was an estimated 3.70 million in September 2023, up 34,000 (0.9%) compared with June 2023 and up 126,000 (3.5%) compared with September 2022; the main contributors to this increase were the NHS, the Civil Service, and local authority schools becoming academies.

  • The NHS employed an estimated 1.98 million people in September 2023, an increase of 20,000 (1.0%) compared with June 2023 and an increase of 84,000 (4.4%) compared with September 2022.

  • Employment in local government was an estimated 2.00 million in September 2023 and little changed on the previous quarter, it was 1,000 (0.0%) more than in June 2023 and 8,000 (0.4%) more than in September 2022; an increase in employment in the police contributed to the increase from a year ago.

  • There were 529,000 employees in the Civil Service in September 2023, up 7,000 (1.3%) compared with June 2023, and up 16,000 (3.1%) compared with September 2022.


Estimates of total and private sector employment derived from the Labour Force Survey, and usually included in this release, are not available for September 2023.

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2. Public sector employment data

Public sector employment
Dataset | Released 12 December 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 12 December 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


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. We also reviewed the seasonal adjustment process for the public sector employment data series.

Private sector employment estimates

Estimates of total employment from the Labour Force Survey are not available for August to October 2023, therefore it is not possible to produce private sector employment estimates for September 2023. For more information, see our Update on the Labour Force Survey statement.

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 public sector employment statistics in due course.


For more information on how labour market data sources were affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see our Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics article.

View our Comparison of labour market data sources and the main differences article.


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 12 December 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Public sector employment, UK: September 2023

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Neil Hedges
Telephone: +44 1633 456741