UK retail job numbers fall in second quarter

The UK retail industry had in the second quarter of the year 3.3% fewer full-time jobs than the same period in 2016, impacted by structural changes driven by technology and the increased cost of employing people.

The BRC Retail Employment Monitor revealed this week that both full-time and part-time workers saw their hours reduced in the second quarter of the year, with all three months reporting a decline in full-time equivalent employment. April’s decline was the steepest of the three months, but the fall was slower than the last two months of the previous quarter.

The decline is likely to continue, as 15% of respondents said they are planning to decrease employment levels in the coming quarter, compared to 0% in the second quarter of last year.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said this trend was driven by technology, as it is “both transforming the way we shop and providing increasing opportunities for automation in retail.” The difficult trading environment and government policies such as the National Living Wage and the Apprenticeship Levy are also “driving the industry towards fewer but more productive jobs.”

"The pace of consolidation in the retail workforce has slowed this quarter compared to last. However, there are further reductions to come. The transformation of the industry is still in progress and this quarters’ data show that more retailers are intending to reduce their workforce in the coming months than at the same point last year,” said Dickinson.

"As ever, there are some retailers who are thriving and growing their workforce, although they are in the minority. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents to our survey saw employees work fewer hours in Q2 this year, compared to last, with reductions particularly acute amongst non-food retailers.”

Dickinson warned that the challenges facing retailers will increase in the coming months, which will at the same time increase the pressure to restructure their workforce.

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