Around 86,000 new jobs were created in the UK public sector last year, more than four times the rate of job creation in the private sector. The National Health Service saw an increase of 61,000 jobs, while education added an extra 11,000.
Although the number of public sector jobs created in 2002 is down on the previous yearís figure of 118,000, public sector employment has still risen two per cent during the past two years, compared to the tiny 0.16 per cent increase in the private sector.
Experts claims that without the increase in public sector jobs, unemployment would be almost 200,000 higher.
The official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that some 354,000 public sector jobs have been created since Labour came to power, bringing the total to an eight-year high in 2002 of 5.3 million jobs. The public sector now accounts for a fifth of the total number of jobs in the UK,
But the current totals are still half a million lower than the levels seen in the 1970s and 1980s, although the biggest fall since then was due to the large-scale privatisations of state enterprises during the 1980s.
But the ONS pointed out that the real figure for public sector employment could be even higher since some private sector workers, such as agency nurses, are deemed to be private employees even though they are paid by the NHS.
Despite the rapid expansion in public sector employment, more than half all public sector organisations experience shortages of suitably skilled applicants for jobs when they recruit.
Research released last week by recruitment group Reed found that local government is the worst affected, while around half of all healthcare, uniformed services and education employers also report recruitment difficulties.