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September 2011: 23,000 fewer retail jobs compared to the same period in 2010


In the third quarter of 2011, retail employment was down by 0.8% compared with the same quarter a year earlier, the equivalent of 5,780 fewer full-time jobs according to the British Retail Consortium and Bond Pearce.

During the same period the number of retail outlets grew by 2.3%, an additional 1,134 shops.

This is the sharpest quarterly fall the Monitor has recorded since it started annual comparisons in October 2009. Taking just the month of September, there were 23,000 fewer jobs compared with the same month last year.

The overall decline in the equivalent number of full-time workers was driven by non-food retailers.

Part-time workers experienced the largest decline in hours worked, reflecting the recent trend suggested by official figures from the ONS. The growth in the numbers of stores was almost entirely driven by grocery retailers.

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: "With consumer spending now in recession and retail sales volumes declining, this is the biggest drop in overall retail employment in the two years since we began this survey. Redundancy rates are thankfully low but many retailers are not filling every vacancy.

"Uncertainty and fears about Christmas trading may also be leading retailers to delay taking on this year's seasonal staff - with that reluctance compounded by the new Agency Workers rules.

"Supermarkets' continued expansion into convenience store formats means food retailers are still adding new jobs but even that is slowing. This is all crucial evidence that imposing extra burdens on businesses doesn't come without costs. It results in fewer jobs in a sector which has previously been a consistent job creator. The Chancellor must use his Autumn Statement to restore confidence and jobs growth through a moratorium on new employment regulation."

Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, said: "Retailers are being battered by the same economic conditions that have led to the highest unemployment rate for 17 years. There is no doubt it is tough out there but retailers are showing their determination to hold on to market share by keeping redundancies low and riding out the storm as best they can."

"Store numbers continue to increase but food retailers are almost entirely responsible for this, and curiously the trend for them is towards more full-time job opportunities, with part-timers' hours remaining almost flat, which could make things more difficult for those looking for flexible employment. Seasonal hiring from those parts of retailing that gain significantly from Christmas may provide some respite, but this won't change the underlying weakness in the retail labour market."