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Retailers cut equivalent of 10,000 jobs last month

Store bosses cut the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-time jobs in December as they reduced staff working hours and neglected to offer overtime during the industry's busiest month of the year.

The number of hours worked by retail employees was 1.5% lower in December compared with the same month of 2009, according to the BRC-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor. The authoritative survey, whose respondents speak for 50% of the sector's turnover, also reported a "noticeable weakening in sentiment" over the last 12 months. It said one in three retailers planned to cut jobs by April compared with 13% a year ago.

"December was a difficult trading month for some retailers," said the BRC's director general, Stephen Robertson, who said the 1.5% fall in hours worked was equivalent to the loss of about 10,300 full-time jobs. "Overall, employment growth faltered because stores were less busy, so there were fewer working hours than the previous year."

Major store groups such as Argos owner Home Retail have been reducing staff hours as part of a drive to cut costs amid difficult trading conditions. High street chains are also coming under pressure from supermarkets, which are tightening their grip on the sector and have major ambitions in non-food sales.

Retail bosses also took on fewer temporary Christmas staff, but that was not the reason behind the decline as the sample looks at hours worked by existing employees.

Robertson said the fortunes of food and non-food retailers appeared to have diverged in the last quarter. "Food retailers appear to be more confident about investing and employing more staff," he said. "The hours reduction came from non-food retailing while grocery continued to increase employment."

Source : Zoe Wood and Julia Kollewe - The Guardian

27 January 2011
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