Retail employment increases by 1.8% as triple dip recession is avoided - Chancellor describes as 'encouraging'

Retail employment rose by 1.8% in the first quarter compared to a year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

The amount of outlets went up by 1.4% from January to March and there were 253 more stores recorded in a sample compared with March 2012. This rise was powered by food retailers, of whom four fifths are aiming to raise or maintain staffing levels during the following three months.

The slight rises in store numbers and employment, mainly driven by part-time workers is encouraging, said Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General.

However, there are wide variations by sector with growth stemming completely from food retailers and non-food levels dipping.

Recent retail administrations had filtered through to the statistics, raising sector redundancy rates to the highest level since the Monitor began at the peak of the recession in October 2008.

Retail's bucking of the trend by continued investment in people and communities was reassuring given the jobless figures last week, said Ms Dickinson, although she added that the consortium wants to see the growth spread wider over the sector instead of the "tale of two halves' presented in this quarter.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier revealed that the UK dodged an unprecedented triple-dip recession after the economy expanded by 0.3%, higher than anticipated, at the start of 2013.

Chancellor George Osborne described the figures as "an encouraging sign the economy is healing", adding: "Despite a tough economic backdrop, we are making progress."

There had been a 0.3% shrinkage in the last quarter of 2012.

A rise in energy demand in the cold weather offset snow-hit trading on the high street at the start of 2013.

Copyright Press Association 2013