Retail jobs growth slows down
In the fourth quarter of 2010, there were the equivalent of 3,900 more full-time jobs in UK retail than the same quarter a year earlier, an increase of 0.6%. Comparing the three months to December with the same period the previous year, the number of outlets grew by 5.9%, an additional 943 shops.
Comparing just December with the same month in 2009, the number of hours worked by retail employees fell by 1.5% as a result of tough trading conditions. This was equivalent to a fall of around 10,300 full time jobs year-on-year. The number of outlets grew by 6% compared with the same month in 2009.
38% of retailers in the sample said they would decrease staffing levels, compared with 13% this time last year. It indicates a noticeable weakening in sentiment over the last 12 months. A divergence between food and non-food retailers' employment intentions has developed over the last three months – food retailers appearing to be more confident about investing and employing more staff.
Stephen Robertson, BRC Director General, said: "Against an economy-wide background of rising unemployment, retail job numbers were up modestly by 0.6% on the same quarter in 2009. Almost two thirds of retailers say they will add to or maintain job numbers over the next three months and new stores are still being opened. With youth unemployment a major concern, retailers' largely positive outlook is good news for young jobseekers since a third of retail staff are under 25.
"But December was a difficult trading month for some retailers. Overall, employment growth faltered in December because stores were less busy so there were fewer working hours than the previous year. But, there was a sharp contrast between retail sectors. The hours reduction came from non-food retailing while grocery continued to increase employment. This mixed and uncertain picture underlines the need for a strong political focus on growth and a Budget that reduces burdens on business."
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, Head of Retail Employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, said: "The overall figures are challenging, but it's significant that employment in the retail sector continued to outperform the overall economy. It's still too early to assess the impact of the public sector cuts on the private sector as a whole but there must now be some doubt cast on the extent to which retailers can absorb job losses.
"One in three retailers expects to shed jobs by April, but the pattern of employment seems to be patchy. We should consider these statistics against the backdrop of the UK GDP figures, which reveal a drop of 0.5 per cent in real GDP.
"The exact measure of the GDP figures may still be locked in the ice of December's weather as I do believe they could have been distorted by the impact of the snow. Talk about a double-dip recession is premature although the UK recovery is slow compared with other G7 economies."
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