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Public sector employment at all-time low

The number of people employed in the public sector is at an all-time low, according to this month’s report from the Office for National Statistics.

With just 5.37 million public sector employees in March, it was the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1999. This accounts for less than 20% of people in employment.

A Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) spokesperson said: “The last government and this one are trying to unpick the fabric of our society and our welfare state. Cutting public sector workers really means taking away the people who provide vital services that we all rely on every day, and we all suffer as a result.”

public sector employment graph

Public sector employment has previously faced sharp declines when the Royal Mail plc and Lloyd Banking Group plc were reclassified to the private sector in December 2013 and March 2014 respectively. 

Mark Beatson, CIPD chief economist, said: “The three-month average rate of wage growth remains unchanged at 2.7%. However, this disguises a ‘tale of two workforces’; where the living standards of workers in sectors such as manufacturing and public sector are falling further behind other booming sectors such as construction and finance.

“Inflation is unusually low and many firms are still not having pay reviews either because they see no need to put wages up, or are awarding low pay rises because they say they can’t afford to pay more. Looking ahead, there is also a question of whether some employers might change how they set pay in anticipation of the proposed National Living Wage, especially in low-paid sectors.”

The figures show that real wages are actually growing at their fastest rate since 2007, with the government crediting its “long-term economic plan”. There has also been a fall in long-term unemployment from 6.5% to 5.6% since the previous year, with youth unemployment at its lowest level since 2008.

The Department for Work and Pensions said in a statement: “The strength of the UK labour market continues – with employment rates now well above pre-recession levels, and the female employment rate hitting another record high. Over the past year, the rise in employment has come entirely from full-time work, as the economy continues to grow.

“Added to this, the fall in long-term unemployment shows that this one nation government is delivering on the commitment to ensuring the economic recovery is felt by all sections of society.”


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