By Daniel Hunter

In the first quarter of 2012, retail employment rose by 0.4% compared with the same quarter in 2011, the equivalent of 3,011 more full-time jobs according to the BRC Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor.

“The small increase in overall retail employment for the first quarter of this year is encouraging but it is clear from our return to recession just how fragile any growth is," Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said.

"None of these jobs can be taken for granted. Retailers are more positive about their immediate employment intentions than a year ago, but the GDP figures confirm 2012 will still be very tough for businesses and households. If it’s to rekindle growth the Government should not be putting extra tax and regulatory costs on retailers or consumers."

The overall increase in the equivalent number of full-time workers was driven predominately by food retailers, the largest boost coming from part-time workers. During the same period the number of retail outlets grew by 4.9%, a net increase of 858 shops.

Employment intentions improved significantly in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same quarter last year with 71% of the sample indicating that they would keep staffing levels unchanged, compared with 54% last year, and just 8% of retailers indicating that they would decrease staffing levels, compared with 29% last year.

"This rise in retail employment year on year, in a quarter which has seen several well publicised failures by retailers, presents a polarised view of the sector with a stark divide between those who are surviving and even growing and those that have become casualties of the market," Christina Tolvas-Vincent, Head of Retail Employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, said.

"The positive change in attitude towards staffing levels by retailers also reflects a trend for cautious optimism among those who are finding their feet in the current economic climate.

"The difference in fortunes between food and non-food retailers has been clear for some time but there could also be a growing divide between those who are embracing the opportunities in growing areas such as multi-channel retailing and the digital retail world, and those who are not.

"Retailers must adapt and evolve in order to survive in these tough conditions, average earnings are still falling behind inflation, and this will shape consumer behaviour for some time to come. Redundancy figures are still relatively low but if more retailers fail this will change and as the largest employer in the private sector this has a huge impact, particularly for young people, on the job market."

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