Number of public sector workers drops, ONS figures show

14 Jun 17

The number of public sector workers dropped by 20,000 in March 2017 compared to the same month last year, according to official figures.

The total number of UK public sector employees in March 2017 was 5.424m, down from 5.444m in March last year, the Office for National Statistic’s quarterly report out today reveals.

The figure in March this year was also down 7,000 on the previous quarter.

This represents a 0.1% fall in public sector workers on the previous quarter and 0.4% on March 2016.

Now 17% of people employed are in the public sector – the smallest comparable percentage since records began in 1999, the ONS figures show.

 “Looking longer-term, public sector employment has been generally falling for the last 7 years [See figure 1 below],” the ONS said.

“There are now around one million fewer employees in the public sector compared with the peak level of 6.440 million in September 2009.”

ONS public sector workers

Central government employment was up 20,000 (0.7%) on the previous quarter and 83,000 (2.9%) on the year at 2.995m, the highest since comparable records began in 1999.

The figures also show that local government employment was down 25,000 compared to the previous quarter (the 14th consecutive quarterly fall) at 2.123m, a drop of 1.2%.

Overall the number of local government workers had fallen by 90,000 compared to March 2016, a decrease of 4.1%. These are the lowest figures since comparable records began in 1999.

The ONS stated: “For the last five years, the composition of the public sector has been changing; central government employment has been rising whilst local government employment has been falling.

“Academy conversions in England are the main factor behind this – employees move from local to central government when local authority schools become academies.”

The ONS report noted that in March 2017, academy conversions accounted for around 12,000 employees over the quarter and 56,000 over the year moving from local to central government.

Civil service employment was up 3,000 (0.7%) on the previous quarter at 419,000 but it had been falling since 2005 from a peak of 566,000.

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