South and West Dorset could be among the worst-hit areas of the country when the axe falls on public sector jobs.

They have some of the highest percentages of people employed in the public sector nationwide, according to official figures.

The business advice service Business Link has warned that West Dorset has around 40 per cent of people working in the public sector – the seventh highest in the country.

And nearly half of jobs in Dorchester are in the public sector.

Figures from the National Office for Statistics showed public sector employment rates standing at: * 22 per cent in Dorset – including Bournemouth and Poole.

* 46.5 per cent in Dorchester.

* 37 per cent in Weymouth and Portland.

Matthew Butcher, who is economic development manager for Business Link in Dorset, said: “In West Dorset the 18,100 public sector jobs represent almost 40 per cent of the total number of people employed.

“Dorchester has the highest proportion in the South West – 7,900 jobs, which is 46.5 per cent of the workforce.

“The figure for Weymouth and Portland is 37 per cent.”

Nationally, the figure for the proportion of public sector jobs out of the total employment is 26.4 per cent.

Mr Butcher added: “With the public sector being such a major employer in West Dorset there will obviously be concern about the impact of cuts.

“At the same time there is a big opportunity for local companies, who are always telling us there is a skills shortage.

“This could give them a greater opportunity to recruit people with the skills they require.

“Some former public sector employees may be prompted to start up in business on their own account – and for anyone considering that step, Business Link in Dorset is always on hand to provide the information and assistance that they need.

“The point is being made regularly that if our economy is to grow again it will be because of individual creativity and initiative.

“Fortunately, we know that there is plenty of that in Dorset, because we are helping small firms and would-be entrepreneurs every day.”