A report has predicted that the number of people losing their jobs could double.
The warning comes after a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey revealed that substantially fewer people would be taken on among public sector organisations.
The figures led the CIPD to say that jobseekers faced a difficult start to the year – with employers planning to cut their staff by more than 6% in the first quarter.
The survey of 700 employers revealed that more jobs would be cut with fewer people expected to be taken on.
Alan Downey, head of public sector at KPMG, which helped with the research, said: "These figures clearly show that the starting gun for a public sector recession has been fired.
"Reducing the pay bill, whether through a pay freeze or headcount reductions, or both, is an obvious way to cut costs quickly. Other options that need to be seriously addressed include: consolidating operations to improve efficiency and release property and other assets for disposal; and reconfiguring service delivery in order to reduce costs while maintaining quality."