A surge in temporary staff has added thousands of bureaucrats to the ranks of the federal public service as it mounts the government's response to COVID-19.
New figures show sharp increases in staffing since 2019 have brought about 3700 more public servants into Commonwealth agencies, ending three consecutive years of downsizing.
A rise in non-ongoing staff - employed for short periods or for specific tasks - drove the uptick nationally, confirming federal government warnings that the bureaucracy's growth would only be short-term.
However the ACT appeared to buck the trend, adding about 1300 permanent Commonwealth jobs to the Canberra employment market.
The agency overseeing the Australian Public Service's workforce released numbers showing the bureaucracy's headcount reached 150,500 in June, up from 146,800 the same month in 2019.
While the number of temporary staff grew nationally by about 3,800, the number of permanent public servants fell by 100.
Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly responded to the new figures saying the rise in staffing would not undo years of cuts by the Coalition government.
"It won't drive the kind of recovery Australia needs," she said.
Growth was conspicuous in Canberra, where 56,700 federal bureaucrats are working, nearly 1500 more compared to June 2019.
Agencies with large boosts to their headcounts were two at the front line of government programs absorbing the worst economic shocks of the coronavirus.
MORE PUBLIC SERVICE NEWS:
The Australian Taxation Office grew by more than 2000 staff as it delivered a series of measures to keep businesses alive during the pandemic, including the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme. Temporary staff drove most of the increase.
Services Australia had 1800 public servants join the agency temporarily as it processed hundreds of thousands of welfare claims from people who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
However, the number of permanent staff fell by 500 in the year to June 2020.
The increases in Commonwealth public sector employment only brought the bureaucracy's national headcount back to 2018 levels, indicating the depth of job cuts to agencies in the lead-up to the pandemic.
Ms Donnelly said there were still about 8000 fewer staff than when the Coalition came to office.
"This is a classic pattern of Scott Morrison - cause a huge problem, undo it but only partially, then pause for applause," she said.
"They cut thousands of jobs from Centrelink and now want the credit for putting a lesser number of less secure jobs back into the social security system."
Ms Donnelly said much of the public service's extra capacity also came from outsourced and labour hire workers.
The federal budget last week flagged thousands of extra jobs for the public service to deal with the pandemic but said they would not be permanent.
Public service numbers are expected to peak this year, before dropping as demand for extra staff to deal with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic reduces.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said last week the temporary uplift in Commonwealth staffing would last as long as necessary over a transitional period to support programs helping Australians in need.