Public sector employment, UK: September 2018

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

This is an accredited national statistic.

Cyswllt:
Email Richard Clegg

Dyddiad y datganiad:
11 December 2018

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
19 March 2019

1. Main points

  • For September 2018, 5.36 million people were estimated to be employed in the public sector, 2,000 fewer than for June 2018; this very small fall was entirely due to the transfer of Scottish housing associations to the private sector.

  • Excluding the Scottish housing associations transfer, the number of people employed in the public sector was estimated to have increased by 20,000 between June and September 2018.

  • Between September 2017 and September 2018, public sector employment fell by an estimated 120,000; this large fall was entirely due to the transfer of housing associations in England, Wales and Scotland to the private sector during this period.

  • Excluding the housing associations transfers, the estimated number of people employed in the public sector increased by 51,000 between September 2017 and September 2018, due mainly to more people working for the National Health Service and the Civil Service.

  • For September 2018, 27.12 million people were estimated to be working in the private sector, 516,000 more than for a year earlier; excluding the housing associations transfers, the estimated annual increase in private sector employment was 345,000.

  • For September 2018, of all people in paid work, 16.5% were employed in the public sector and the remaining 83.5% were employed in the private sector.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

The estimates of public and private sector employment published in this month’s release have been impacted by the reclassification of Scottish housing associations, which are included in the public sector between September 2001 and June 2018 but are included in the private sector for earlier and later time periods. This reclassification has resulted in around 15,000 employees who were included in the public sector for June 2018 being included in the private sector estimates for September 2018.

For this month’s release, revisions have been made to the public sector employment estimates back to the start of the quarterly time series in 1999. The main revisions are:

  • the inclusion of local authority trading companies (LATCs) from September 2003

  • a review of the seasonal adjustment process for the public sector employment series

This bulletin presents the latest quarterly estimates of UK public sector employment (PSE). The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations as defined for the UK National Accounts.

These statistics are used mainly to monitor changes in the number of people employed in the UK public and private sectors and to inform policy-making across government.

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) is aggregated by sponsoring department.

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.

The PSE estimates are point-in-time employment estimates and relate to a specific day in the published month.

The main source of 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. It is difficult to achieve complete coverage for local and central government, for example, in the education sector. Further information can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information report.

All time series in this release, except for 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.

Comparisons of public and private sector employment over time are complicated by a number of 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.

Consistent with the revisions policy for public sector employment statistics , the statistics are subject to revisions. Revisions can be made for a variety of reasons, the most common include:

  • to account for late information from respondents

  • to account for recent classifications to the public sector

  • to update seasonal factors (updated quarterly and reviewed annually)

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3. Public sector employment is little changed on the quarter

There were an estimated 5.36 million employees in the public sector for September 2018, down 2,000 (0.0%) compared with June 2018 and down 120,000 (2.2%) compared with September 2017. These quarterly and annual movements in public sector employment have been affected by the transfer of housing associations in England (in December 2017), in Wales (in June 2018) and in Scotland (in September 2018) to the private sector.

Excluding the effects of the transfers of housing associations, public sector employment increased by 20,000 (0.4%) between June and September 2018 and by 51,000 (1.0%) between September 2017 and September 2018.

Of all people in paid work, 16.5% were employed in the public sector for September 2018, the same as for March and June 2018.

Figure 1 shows trends in total public sector employment and public sector employment excluding major reclassifications since comparable records began in 1999.

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4. Central government employment continues to rise, while local government employment continues to fall

The latest estimates show a continuing trend of more people employed in central government and fewer people employed in local government, due mainly to some local authority schools in England converting to academy status.

The estimated number of people employed in central government continues to increase to reach a new record high of 3.14 million for September 2018. It is up 24,000 (0.8%) compared with June 2018 and up 106,000 (3.5%) compared with September 2017, as shown in Figure 2.

The estimated number of people employed in local government continues to fall to reach a new record low of 2.05 million for September 2018. It is down 10,000 (0.5%) compared with June 2018 and down 59,000 (2.8%) compared with September 2017, as shown in Figure 2.

The estimated number of people employed in public corporations fell by 16,000 (8.9%) between June 2018 and September 2018 to reach 164,000. This was almost entirely due to the transfer of Scottish housing associations to the private sector. Between September 2017 and September 2018, employment in public corporations fell by 167,000 (50.5%), due mainly to the transfer of English, Welsh and Scottish housing associations to the private sector.

The academies impact

The composition of the public sector is changing due to academy conversions in England. Employees move from local government to central government when local authority schools become academies. In September 2018, academy conversions accounted for 18,000 employees over the quarter and 58,000 over the year, as shown in Table 1. A full time series of employment in academies is available in Table 11 of the public sector employment dataset.

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5. Employment in the National Health Service, education and public administration rises

For September 2018, there were 1.66 million people employed in the National Health Service. This was:

  • 14,000 more than for June 2018

  • 35,000 more than for a year earlier

  • the highest figure on record

For September 2018, the National Health Service accounted for 31.1% of all people employed in the public sector and 5.1% of all people in paid work in the UK.

For September 2018, there were 1.51 million people employed in public sector education. This was up 4,000 (0.3%) compared with June 2018 and up 8,000 (0.5%) compared with a year earlier.

For September 2018, public sector education accounted for 28.1% of all people employed in the public sector and 4.6% of all people in paid work in the UK.

For September 2018, there were 1.03 million people employed in public administration. This was:

  • 3,000 more than for June 2018

  • 17,000 more than for a year earlier

  • the highest figure since March 2015

Figure 3 shows public sector employment by selected industries since the series began in 1999.

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6. Private sector employment continues to increase

Private sector employment estimates are derived as the difference between total employment estimates, sourced from the Labour Force Survey, and public sector employment estimates collected from public sector organisations.

The estimates for September 2018 show that there were 27.12 million people employed in the private sector. This was:

  • 81,000 (0.3%) more than the estimate for June 2018

  • 516,000 (1.9%) more than the estimate for a year earlier

The transfer of English and Welsh housing associations to the private sector has contributed to these increases in private sector employment. Excluding the effects of the housing association transfers, private sector employment increased by 59,000 (0.2%) between June and September 2018 and by 345,000 (1.3%) between September 2017 and September 2018.

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7. Civil Service employment shows increase on the quarter and the year

For September 2018, there were 435,000 people employed in the Home Civil Service (8.1% of total public sector employment). This was:

  • 4,000 more compared with June 2018

  • 12,000 (2.8%) more than for September 2017

As shown in Figure 5, the Home Civil Service has seen a steady increase in employment since the record low of 416,000 recorded for June, September and December 2016.

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9. Quality and methodology

The Public sector employment (PSE) Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and the users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

Response rates

The primary source of the PSE statistics is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES), which comprises three separate data collections: local authorities in England and Wales, public corporations and non- departmental public bodies (NDPBs) in Great Britain and the Home Civil Service. Our targets for response before the results are compiled are 90% for Local Authorities and Public Bodies QPSES and 100% for Civil Service QPSES. Response rates for the latest period are shown in Table 3.

So that estimates of total public sector employment can be made, it is necessary for further information to be gathered from external sources, listed in Table 4.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Richard Clegg
pse@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455400