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Public sector employment drops to lowest level in nine years, reports ONS

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The number of people employed in the private sector increased by 205,000 to reach 23.38 million but the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 39,000 to reach 5.90 million, the lowest figure since March 2003, according to ONS figures published within the last hour.

But overall, there were 29.28 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 166,000 on the quarter.

The unemployment rate was 8.2% of the economically active population, down 0.2% on the quarter. There were 2.61 million unemployed people, down 51,000 on the quarter. The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 23.0 per cent, down 0.2 on the quarter. There were 9.23 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, down 69,000 on the quarter.

The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 70.6%, up 0.3 on the quarter.

Total UK public sector employment decreased for the tenth consecutive quarter in the first quarter of 2012, by 39,000 to 5.899 million. UK local government decreased by 33,000, UK central government employment decreased by 1,000 and employment in UK public corporations decreased by 5,000.

Civil Service employment in Great Britain decreased by 7,000 to 464,000. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that Civil Service employment in Great Britain has decreased.

Tom Lovell, group managing director of specialist recruitment consultancy Reed, said: "Last month's labour market statistics showed a continued stabilisation of the UK jobs market, with unemployment continuing to decrease, and an increase in employment levels. This was supported by our own figures which showed that that the number of permanent jobs opportunities was up 4% year on year.

"Looking to the latest figures, this positive trend is continuing, with the number of permanent jobs taken up 7% on April's figures and the number of interviews attended up by 10% - a possible indicator that employers are gearing up for the second half of the year by taking on more staff. The technical services sector, which includes roles in engineering and property and construction, performed particularly well, with strong signs of growth also coming through in the finance, technology and education sectors, all of which saw an increase in permanent roles in May.

"This is also supported by the latest Reed Job Index, which provides insight into the conditions and trends across the UK labour market and showed that May was a buoyant month for UK jobs, with new vacancies increasing by 17% year on year and 5% compared with April. It also found that health, charity and education support services were most in demand and that the vast majority of regional employers are posting more opportunities, with Scotland, South West and East Midlands see biggest regional growth."

Total pay (including bonuses) rose by 1.4 per cent on a year earlier, up 0.5 on the three months to March 2012. Regular pay (excluding bonuses) rose by 1.8 per cent on a year earlier, up 0.2 on the three months to March 2012.