The government's razor gangs have middle managers firmly in sight as the federal bureaucracy continues to shed hundreds of jobs a month.

Public servants in executive level 1 or higher roles are almost three times as likely to be retrenched as more junior officers, an analysis of staff departures shows.

Former Labor finance minister Penny Wong announced a crackdown on middle-management ranks last year, saying she was concerned by the extent of so-called "classification creep" under previous governments.

She urged the bureaucracy to develop "more sustainable management structures", and agencies began to focus on culling EL officers as well as members of the senior executive service.

An analysis of Public Service Gazette notices since July last year shows the purge is quickening under the Abbott government.

The gazettes have reported 1319 staff departures, excluding retirements and resignations. Most forced exits (57 per cent) were EL or SES officers, even though these staff comprise just 20 per cent of public servants.

Staff at EL1 and EL2 levels tend to be employed as supervisors, section heads or specialists. Their median base salary a year ago was $104,825 and $130,460 respectively.

The gazettes also say the vast majority of forced departures were retrenchments (87 per cent), followed by medical redundancies (9 per cent), and sackings for either underperformance (1.7 per cent) or misconduct (1.5 per cent).

The workplaces where executives and senior executives seemed most threatened were the departments of Attorney-General's, Health and Human Services.

Attorney-General's has a relatively highly paid workforce – 54 per cent are EL1 or higher – but those staff made up 85 per cent of recent job losses.

About 78 per cent of Health's dismissals involved EL or SES staff, who make up 46 per cent of the department.

The giant Department of Human Services has also aggressively targeted its relatively few EL and SES officers (who comprise just 14 per cent of staff): 74 per cent of its departures involved workers at those levels.

In July last year, the department told its staff it was "clear there are more employees at the executive level than are needed for the efficient and effective operation of the department".

The Public Service Commission reviewed bureaucrats' work levels in 2012, and sought advice on why "classification creep" had occurred.

It found that some of the shift of staff up the pay scales was justified by "the changing nature of the work (more automation of lower-level functions), the outsourcing of a number of lower-level functions, the impact of technology, and an increase in the complexity of many roles".

However, it also noted "a tendency to classify some positions on bases other than work value, particular to attract and retain staff".

Senior public servants told the review that government agencies competed to hire talented staff, which helped push those people into inappropriately high levels.

"Lower-paying agencies feel some pressure to increase the classification of certain roles so the remuneration they are offering is attractive," the review report said.

"Additionally, the competition for staff in the Canberra labour market ... is tight, [so] some agencies offer positions at a higher classification level compared to comparable positions on offer in other agencies."