Data available at the time of our November 2010 Economic and fiscal outlook suggested that general government employment fell by 550,000 between 1992 and 1998. But some of this fall reflected the reclassification of further education colleges and sixth-form school employees from the public to the private sector in 1993. This box outlined a simple methodology which suggested that general government employment would have fallen by just over 400,000 over that period in the absence of this reclassification.

The latest data indicate that general government employment fell by 550,000 between 1992 and 1998. However, part of this reduction reflects a reclassification of further education colleges and sixth-form school employees from the public to private sector in 1993.

While there is currently no specific estimate of this effect, we can obtain some idea of the impact from changes in the level of employment in education. General government employment in education fell by 162,000 between 1992 and 1993, compared to a fall of 23,000 between 1991 and 1992. If we assume that the additional reduction between 1992 and 1993 relative to the previous year reflects the effect of reclassification, this would imply approximately 140,000 of the fall in general government employment in that year can be attributed to classification changes. Removing this effect would imply a fall in general government employment of just over 400,000 between 1992 and 1998.

We stress that this is not an official estimate of the impact of classification changes in general government employment. The ONS have also announced plans to re-classify most sixth form and further education colleges back to the public sector, and to implement this re-classification in the public sector employment estimates (including past data) to be published in March 2011.

This box was originally published in Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2010

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