Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs) and Public Employment Services (PES) are related components of the European Union and member state labour market policy. Typically, PES are analysed in terms of a narrow concern with efficiency and effectiveness of service. In this paper, we argue that PES are constituents in broader processes. They are not just means to facilitate employment, they are also part of transmission mechanisms for a political economy of competitiveness. They play a particular role in governance processes, and so serve to produce and reproduce power relations that are intrinsic to those processes. We argue that the technical ways that PES have been managed over recent decades has contributed to broader processes of disempowering labour, through depoliticized management practices. We argue that attempts at even limited re-empowerment of labour would require a repoliticization of these management practices.