160310 Public sector by region
  • Rewind… Previously on To The Point, we looked at the rebalancing of the economy away from the public sector jobs and towards the private. London, I said back then, has added an extra 27 private sector jobs for every public sector job it has lost since 2010 – and it’s still around that level. But what this statistic doesn’t capture is the overall balance. London may have put on 691,810 private sector jobs, and shed 25,499 public ones, but where does this leave these two parts of the labour market in relation to each other?
  • …and redo. The beginning of an answer is provided by the chart above. It depicts the number of public sector jobs in each region of the UK as a percentage of all the jobs in each region of the UK, and then shows how this ratio has changed between March 2010 and September 2015, which is the most recent month on record. Just so you know, the definition of public sector jobs that I’ve used excludes any major reclassifications during that time – so these numbers are due to changes in the actual labour market, not in some statistician’s spreadsheets.
  • The rankings… You’ll notice that, on this chart, London is towards the bottom. Its ratio of public sector jobs to all jobs was one of the smallest (17.1 per cent) in 2010, and it’s declined by one of the smallest amounts (2.9 percentage points), but by enough to make it the actual smallest now (14.3 per cent). Northern Ireland, by contrast, had the biggest ratio (29.0 per cent) in 2010, and it’s declined by one of the biggest amounts (3.5 percentage points), but it’s still the biggest now (25.4 per cent). Generally speaking, the chart suggests that public sector job cuts are a bit like weight loss: the more there is to shed, the quicker it’s done – but the bulk has a way of persisting.
  • …and their limitations. Except it all gets a bit more complicated. Expressing the number of public sector jobs as a proportion of all jobs is a handy measure of the public sector’s size and persistence in a region, but it’s not enough by itself. As the Office for National Statistics put it in a paper in 2012, “A disadvantage of this measure is that the results are dependent on the level of private sector employee jobs in an area (which is part of the denominator). In other words, a high ratio for this measure may be due to a ‘high’ level of public sector employee jobs in an area. But equally, it could be due to a ‘low’ level of private sector employee jobs in an area, or to a mixture of the two.”
  • More to follow. What other metrics do we need? To be honest, the more I looked into this, the knottier it became. There’s data for the sub-regions within the regions, for whether employees are residing in an area or just working there, and much more, and they all create different impressions. That’s why I referred to the chart at the top of this page as a “beginning”. The story will continue in future To The Point posts.