Retailers call for action to kick-start the economy

Retailers today called for government action to stimulate the economy after a sharp fall in employment levels in the sector.

There was a 3,100 drop in the number of workers employed by retail businesses in the three months to the end of June, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The 0.4 per cent decline, compared with the same period last year, was accompanied by a sharp fall in the number of hours worked and a more modest reduction in the average number of employees per store.

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The number of stores actually increased, by 4.5 per cent to 743, in the last quarter, due to growth in the grocery market. Yet the BRC said it was the first time it had recorded three successive months of falling retail employment levels.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "Most retailers continue to hold steady and almost one in five still expects to increase jobs, but a growing number are having to limit hours and reduce staff, leaving overall retail employment down on a year ago."

The government needs to act quickly to boost the economic recovery and spark new job creation, Robertson added.

"It must implement its growth strategy, particularly reducing government-generated costs from regulation, inconsistent enforcement, business rates and new employment law measures," he said.