The number of full-time equivalent roles in the retail sector fell by 0.9% in the first quarter of this year compared with 2015, marking the sharpest decline since the third quarter of 2014.
The number of stores fell by 0.5% year on year in the same period, the British Retail Consortium-Bond Dickinson Retail Employment Monitor has reported.
January brought the steepest decline in number of jobs, with a fall of 1.2% on last year, followed by 1% in February and 0.4% in March.
“These figures confirm that the rate of change within retail is quickening as the digital revolution reshapes the industry, more property leases come up for renewal and the cost of labour goes up, while the cost of technology goes down,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.
“Today’s employment numbers seem to suggest that we have arrived at the beginning of this predicted downward trend.”
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Dickinson, added: “The vast majority of retailers intend to keep staffing levels unchanged over the next quarter, revealing a sense of uncertainty that could be attributable to June’s European Union referendum. It is also likely that the recently implemented national living wage will be having an effect on the industry as one of the biggest employers in the UK.”