Public sector workforce shrank by 132,000 last year

16 Mar 11
Public sector employment in the UK fell by 132,000 over the whole of last year, cutting the workforce to just under 6.2 million, according to the Office for National Statistics.
By Vivienne Russell


16 March 2011

Public sector employment in the UK fell by 132,000 over the whole of last year, cutting the workforce to just under 6.2 million, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS’s Public Sector Employment Bulletin, published today, also revealed that the number of public sector jobs fell by 45,000 in the last three months of 2010, compared with the previous quarter. Local government employment decreased by 24,000 (0.8%) and central government employment (including the NHS and armed forces) by 9,000 (0.3%). In public corporations, employment has fallen by 12,000 or 2.2%.

The figures also reflect jobs in further education colleges, which were reclassified from private to public sector employment last October.

Over the same period, employment in the private sector increased by 77,000, taking the total to just under 23 million.

The bulletin notes: ‘Compared with the previous year, there was a decrease of 132,000 (2.1%) in public sector employment.

‘The largest decrease was in local government (66,000; 2.3%), followed by central government, which decreased by 45,000 (1.6%).’

The public sector figures came as a separate ONS bulletin revealed that unemployment rose by 27,000 in the three months to the end of January. UK unemployment now stands at 2.53 million, its highest level since 1994. The unemployment rate for young people (16–24year-olds) was 20%, the highest level since comparable records began in 1992.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘The cuts in local government are biting even harder now, with another 24,000 jobs lost. When jobs disappear, communities lose essential services such as home care, day care centres and libraries. And local businesses lose the spending power of council workers.

‘It’s time for the government to think again about the downward direction they are taking the country in. There are alternatives to cutting jobs so fast and so deep.’

Academics said the unemployment figures showed youth unemployment was now at ‘stunning levels’. John Van Reenen and Barbara Petrongolo of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics urged the chancellor to reverse his decision to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance in next week’s Budget. They said he should also commit to an expanded apprenticeship programme and slow down the pace of the cuts.

Trade unions are to protest the cuts at a march in London on March 26.

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