Wide-ranging job cuts have left down-and-out state sector workers at a "tipping point", the Public Service Association says.

State Services minister Tony Ryall today reported nearly 2000 staff have been cut from the state sector since National came to power, with more job losses on the way.

The reduction in state sector staff amounts to five per cent of the 38,859 state employees under Labour.

As of 31 December last year, there were 36,973 people employed in what Mr Ryall called "core Government administration".

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said the cuts had left public service morale as low as she had ever seen it.

Workers were now stretched to the limit and more job losses would mean cutting Government services, she said.

"They've seen the axe fall and the question is whether it will fall on them next. They're questioning - am I going to have a job by Christmas?

"It's just not possible to cut any further without services suffering. We're now at a tipping point. We're talking about cutting services to New Zealanders.

"As the Canterbury earthquake clearly demonstrated, frontline services don't get delivered to the right place at the right time without the support and expertise of those working behind the scenes."

Many of those who had already lost their jobs were either on the unemployment benefit or working for overseas Governments, said Ms Pilott.

She called for Finance Minister Bill English to reveal how many state sector jobs would ultimately go.

"What is the plan? Is it to drop to 30,000. To 25,000?

"It's time to come clean. How small is small and what figure of job cuts is the government aiming at?"

Mr Ryall said the reduction of 2000 jobs was made up by the 300 police officers, 1600 teachers, 1000 nurses and 500 doctors National had added to "frontline" services.

"The Government is determined to see better results from public services and expects that resources are shifted to the frontline services where they are needed most.

"We are focused on making sure New Zealanders receive improved frontline services like health, education and public safety, and this means we need to reduce administration overheads."

He echoed a signal by Finance Minister Bill English that more job losses are still to come.

"Over the next few years New Zealanders should continue to see more back office savings initiatives and further reductions in staff numbers as government departments manage with little or no extra in baseline funding.

"We are focused on making sure New Zealanders receive improved frontline services like health, education and public safety, and this means we need to reduce administration overheads."

Ms Pilott earlier told NZPA she did not know where the figures for the new staff had come from.

"I definitely haven't heard the education unions say they have that number of extra teachers, or that there are 1000 more nurses."

Ms Pilott said she could not comment on the accuracy of the figures, but they were surprising.

"Cutting 2000 public service positions wouldn't fund that number," she said.

"The jobs they've cut are tending to be back-office admin people, who are not earning what doctors earn, or police officers for that matter."

Mr Ryall's office said the staff increase figures had come from individual ministries.

In a speech yesterday at Parliament to senior public servants, Mr English said the public service had responded well to change required by the global recession but the pace of reform needed to step up.

"This is not a time we can afford to indulge in a whole lot of 'nice-to-haves', even though for sections of the population, they feel the loss of those services or funding streams.

"The alternative is that 'nice-to-haves' come at the expense of necessities and at the expense of fairness to people with more need."

Mr English said there were too many Government agencies: in a country of just 4.4 million people, there were 38 Government departments, more than 150 Crown entities and more than 200 organisations for which the Government had some responsibility.