Public sector employment has fallen in all regions of England and Wales since the start of the recession, official figures have showed.

The Office for National Statistics reported large falls in local government employment between March 2008 and last September, with the biggest in the North East (24%), East of England (22%) and South West (21%).

The reduction is likely to be due to cuts in local authority budgets, staff moving off the local authority payroll and schools in England becoming academies, said the ONS.

Central government employment fell in the same period in Northern Ireland (6%), Wales (3%) and Scotland (2%), but increased in England, when the impact of the reclassification of colleges was removed.

Dr John Philpott, director of the Jobs Economist, said: "The burden of public sector job cuts across England has so far generally fallen most heavily on those regions with greatest dependence on the public sector for employment, notably the North East, which has already seen its public sector workforce shrink by 10% since the pre-cuts peak."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Such severe reductions in public sector employment are a real tragedy for those families whose relatives have just lost their jobs, and will continue to damage local communities for many years to come.

"In those parts of the UK where proportionately more of the workforce is in the public sector, the hit to businesses and to shops on local high streets as the newly unemployed rein in their spending, and falling real wages and fear of redundancy force other families to cut back, is devastating.

"With libraries, Sure Start centres, youth clubs, charities and arts groups all facing the axe, valuable services that people have come to rely upon are disappearing. And with the Office for Budget Responsibility predicting that over a million public sector jobs will go by 2018, and the private sector unlikely to be able to create enough jobs to compensate, the future doesn't look bright."