Public sector employment falls to record low

14 Sep 16

The number of people working in the UK’s public sector in June fell to the lowest level since comparable records began in 1999 according to the Office for National Statistics.

Figures released today show that as of June, the number of public sector workers had fallen by 13,000 in the three months since March to 5.332m. This was also around 20,000 less than June last year.

Overall, public sector employment is over 1 million below the peak of 6.365 million, set in September 2009.

Central government continues to be the largest employer with 2.957 million workers, a rise of 1,000 since the previous quarter, and a rise of 51,000 on the previous year. This is the highest figure since comparable records began.

Employment in local government was 2.196 million as of June, falling by 13,000 since March. This accounts for the entirety of the quarterly decrease in public sector employees. There were 1.619m people employed in the NHS, down just 1,000 from March but an increase of 31,000 year on year.

The figures reveal a reversal of two consecutive quarters of growth that saw total public sector employment rise by around 10,000 from October 2015 to March 2016. However, the number of people employed in local government has fallen consistently since June 2010.

The ongoing shift of employees from local to central government is due to the conversion of local authority schools to academies, which are counted under central government. As of June, 9,000 employees shifted to central government over the quarter, due to academy conversions, which amounted to 36,000 on the year.

Within the private sector, the employment figure rose by 186,000 compared with March 2016, and now stands at 26.435 million. This represents a rise of 579,000 compared with June last year.

ONS figures also showed that, across the economy as a whole, the number of people in work increased, quarter on quarter, and the number of unemployed people fell.

In the three months from May to July 2016, there were 31.77 million people in work, which was 174,000 more than for February to April 2016, and 559,000 more than a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged 16-64 who were in work) was 74.5%, the joint-highest rate since comparable records began in 1971.

There were also 1.63 million people unemployed, 39,000 fewer than the previous quarter, and 190,000 fewer than the same period last year. The unemployment rate was 4.9%, down from 5.5% a year earlier. The last time it was lower was from July to September 2005.

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