Retail employment was up by 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012 despite a record decline in store numbers, new research has revealed today.
According to the most recent British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor, the number of retail outlets saw its fastest decline since the monitor began in October 2008, falling by 3.6 per cent during the fourth quarter.
Although retail employment increased, this was driven entirely by part-time workers, and BRC Director-General Helen Dickinson warned of hard times to come.
Calling the retail employment increase “a shaft of light against an otherwise challenging backdrop”, Dickinson commented: “It shows that, despite relentlessly tough times, retailers are continuing to invest in people and support job creation as much as they can.
“But the record drop in store numbers is stark evidence that this investment should not be taken for granted.
“We’re by no means out of the woods yet – given the administrations of recent weeks, the next quarter’s figures are likely to make difficult reading.”
Between September and November 2012, the overall unemployment rate fell by 0.7 per cent year-on-year to 7.7 per cent of the economically active population, according to a recent update from the Office for National Statistics.
But half of the retailers surveyed by the BRC indicated that staff cuts would be necessary within the next quarter, up from a third in the first quarter of 2012, as the combined store portfolio of the sample declined by 573 stores.
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, Head of Retail Employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, commented: “Employment figures may have risen slightly last quarter, due to temporary seasonal staff, but employment intentions for the next three months reflect the stark reality with half of retailers intending to cut staff.
“It is hard to believe that retail employment will remain robust for long under such pressure but at present retail redundancy rates are still low and private sector job creation continues to outstrip public sector losses.
“With economists claiming that more companies will fail before the UK economy can begin to recover, retailers must continue to adapt to the harsh market conditions and hope that their strategies for survival, and even growth, will stand them in good stead.”