Civil service headcount unchanged in latest employment figures

Written by Richard Johnstone on 13 December 2017 in News

ONS figures reveal 300 staff moving from BEIS to DfE following shift in responsibility for further education

The number of people employed in the civil service has remained unchanged at 423,000 in the three months to September, according to the latest quarterly figures from the Office for National Statistics, meaning there has been no fall in the Whitehall headcount since June 2016.

The latest report on public sector employment by the ONS highlighted that the number of people employed in government is up 7,000 (1.7%) from last September's figures following a number of increases earlier this year.


However, the total remains well short of the peak in civil service employment, 566,000, which was set in June 2005, and more than 100,000 posts have been lost from the pre-austerity peak of 528,000 in September 2009.

The Institute for Government noted that the ONS’s figures for full-time equivalent posts in the civil service, rather than the headcount measure, stood at 392,310 at the end of September, an increase of 670 on the previous quarter.

Today’s ONS analysis also includes details of the impact of machinery of government changes on employment in the last year.

It revealed that all employees at the Department for Exiting the European Union are officially “on loan” from other departments, due to the time-limited nature of the Brexit work, and some still remain on home department records. To avoid double counting, DExEU has only reported the employees officially transferred as at 31 March 2017, when it had a headcount of approximately 350.

Other shifts that took place following the machinery of government changes instigated when Theresa May become prime minister in June 2016 included around 300 staff moving from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Department for Education between January and March 2017, after a change in Whitehall responsibility for further education. An estimated 150 employees also transferred from BEIS to the Government Legal Department and 80 people from the business ministry to the Insolvency Service between April and June 2017.

The overall public sector employment figures reported by the ONS today reveal that total UK public sector employment in September 2017 was 5.5 million, up 19,000 on the previous quarter. Total central government employment was just over 3 million, up 29,000 on the previous quarter due to the continuing reclassification of teachers and other staff who work in academies, and an increase in NHS employment. Local government employment was down 9,000 this quarter at 2.1 million, the lowest since comparable records began in 1999. 

Total employment across the economy for the three months to October was 32.1 million, 56,000 fewer than the previous three months. There were 1.4 million people unemployed.

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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