Total hours of retail employment were down 2.1% in Q3 2018 compared to the year-earlier figure, according to the British Retail Consortium’s Employment Monitor.
Meanwhile, store growth slowed to 0.7%, down on Q3 2017 growth of 1.5% and Q2 2018 figure of 1.2%.
The BRC says structural change in retail continues to unfold, with hours in the industry declining over the period July to September – A trend which it says is in stark contrast to the whole UK economy, which continues to see record lows in unemployment.
Hours lost were mainly full-time hours, with retailers using their part time work force more flexibly, offering additional hours instead of increasing full time roles.
The majority of survey participants reduced labour requirements compared to last year, with some increasing stores and also hours and employment.
21% of retailers indicated plans to reduce staff in the coming quarter (compared to 0% at the same point last year).
The BRC says this is surprising given the next quarter is the busiest for retailers. 36% had plans to increase staffing, down from the 50% seen at the same point last year, while 43% were planning on making no changes, compared to 50% last year.
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “The retail industry, the country’s largest private sector employer, continues to be under considerable pressure. While pay is growing much faster than in other industries, employment in retail continues to fall. And there are challenging times ahead, with a fifth of retailers indicating plans to reduce staff ahead of retail’s busiest quarter, when normally they would be looking to increase headcount.
“As the Autumn budget looms, the retail industry is looking to the Government to help alleviate some of the pressure of a broken business rates system. An indication that reform is coming would provide welcome relief to the industry and to those who work within it.”