Public sector employment – feds down, state and local up

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has published its annual data on the number of public sector employees in Australia.

There are more than ever before – nearly 2 million (1.957 million), a slight increase on the year before. Commonwealth numbers are down, by just 3,400 to 239,300, but state numbers are up by nearly 30,000 to 1.528 million and local government numbers up by 3,000 to 190,000.

The numbers mean that around 16 percent of Australia’s workforce are public servants. The largest public employer is the NSW State Government, with 469,000 employees. The NSW public service is thus almost exactly twice the size of the Commonwealths. Victoria (358,000) and Queensland (322,000) also employ more public servants than the Feds.

State governments employ more than three quarters of Australia’s public servants. This is not surprising, since it is the state that deliver education and health, which are major employers.

All states had a growth in the number of public servants last year, except South Australia, which lost about 500 jobs. Data was not published for Tasmania, where numbers were declining before the ABS stopped issuing separate data for that state three years ago.

The biggest percentage growth in numbers in the last year was in the Queensland State Government, where 12,000 extra public service jobs comprised nearly 40 percent of the growth nationally.

The numbers of employees in local government grew in every state except Victoria and Tasmania, which showed small declines.

The ten year trend shows a steady increase in the number of public servants in Australia, roughly in line with population growth. Only two years in the last decade (2011-12 and 2014-15) saw a decline.

The ABS also published the numbers for total wages and salaries. The Commonwealth spent just over $21 billion on salaries, local government $12.5 billion, and the states a whopping $119 billion.

The ABS numbers can be found here.

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