The UK’s retail industry lost 89,000 jobs in the second quarter compared to the same period a year ago, new data shows.
Despite strong retail sales in recent months, the number of retail jobs fell to 3.015 million during the quarter, according to the latest ONS figures.
But it was a brighter picture for the overall job market, with the number of job vacancies between June to August 2021 hitting 1.03 million, the first time vacancies have risen over a million since records began.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said the retail job numbers have been weighed down by a combination of continued low footfall across shopping centres and city centres, the rising number of vacant stores, and competition for jobs from the hospitality sector.
“The decline in retail employment is reflected in the chronic shortage of key retail jobs such as HGV drivers and distribution centre staff,” Dickinson said in a statement.
“This has left some retailers facing supply chain challenges, resulting in some empty shelves. Retailers have responded by increasing pay for workers, particularly in essential logistics roles.”
Dickinson urged the government to provide a temporary worker visa scheme for HGV drivers and “find ways to address other worker shortages”, to bridge the gap while new British workers are trained.
She continued: “Despite the falling number of retail jobs, industry pay has risen steadily over the last two decades. BRC research shows that pay has risen 44 percent since 2008, as jobs become higher skilled and productivity of the industry increases.
“Overall, the retail industry is making a key contribution to the economic recovery and levelling up agenda.”