In a surprising turn of events, the public sector has experienced a remarkable increase in job creation for professional roles during the first half of 2023.

According to a report from specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters, there has been a staggering +51% rise in desk-based public sector job roles compared to the same period last year.

This surge in vacancies indicates a promising trend for the public sector, making it the only industry segment to witness an increase in white-collar and head-office roles this year.

The report analysed job vacancies across various professional services roles, including finance, HR, legal, technology, marketing, and business support & admin.

Among these, technology management roles saw the most significant increase, with demand surging by a remarkable +138 percent from the previous year, constituting 8 percent of all new professional job vacancies in the public sector during the last quarter.

Habiba Khatoon, Director at Robert Walters, attributes this spike in demand for public sector professionals to several factors. Changing government priorities, evolving legislation, demographic shifts, and the need for specialised skills to keep up with technological advancements have all contributed to the continued high demand for skilled professionals in the public sector.

What caused this?

One factor that might have contributed to the public sector’s attractiveness as an employer is the recent announcement of a long-awaited pay increase. This development has improved the sector’s reputation in terms of job security, generous leave entitlement, work-life balance, and diverse career opportunities when compared to the private sector.

Geographically, London remains the most significant location for public sector professional roles, accounting for 32% of all advertised positions. However, the regions have been hiring aggressively, with notable growth in the North (+42%), South (+34%), and Midlands (+26%). London, despite experiencing a +30 percent growth in public sector professional vacancies over the past year, has seen its vacancies marked down by 30.5 percent compared to the previous year.

The private sector is struggling

Meanwhile, other sectors like accountancy and banking & financial services have experienced declines in vacancies, with the former down by -25 percent compared to the last year. However, there is hope for the accountancy sector, as vacancies in Q2 of this year increased by +9 percent compared to Q1. The banking sector has seen a -28 percent decrease in vacancies compared to the previous year, with a notable shift in vacancies toward risk & compliance, which now accounts for 14 percent of all new hires in this sector.

Within the legal sector, volumes have experienced a decline of -28 percent compared to the last year. However, there are pockets of demand for specialists in areas like personal injury (+17%) and tax (+1%). Real estate remains the largest area of hiring in the legal sector, accounting for 19 percent of all roles advertised, followed by litigation/dispute resolution (12%). Interestingly, the legal sector is bucking the trend of maintaining roles in London, with more vacancies in the North compared to the capital in 2023 so far.

What does the future hold?

While the decline in roles across professional services may be disheartening to some, experts believe that it is primarily due to the market correcting itself after the record number of job vacancies seen post-pandemic. Many firms have secured the talent they needed, and in the face of a rocky economic climate, there is a degree of risk aversion playing out in the job market.

The substantial increase in job creation for professional roles within the public sector is a positive sign for the industry and may indicate a shift in where in-demand talent chooses to pursue their careers. With the continued demand for specialised skills and the adoption of digital transformation, the public sector is poised for further growth in the years to come.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.