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Fall in number of jobs in retail at end of 2016 as seasonal overtime scaled back

The number of jobs in retail fell at the end of last year as firms hired fewer seasonal staff and cut back on overtime, a report shows.

Food retailers drove the decline in full-time employment in the final quarter of 2016, said the British Retail Consortium.

The biggest reduction was in December, when there were 4.6% fewer full-time jobs than the previous month.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "While the end of the year remains the busiest time for workers in retail, today's figures are consistent with the long-term trend of retailers reducing the number of hours being worked to adjust to big structural changes in the industry.

"In the last quarter, seasonal overtime was scaled back much more than in previous years, reflecting the relative fall in importance of Boxing Day relative to pre-Christmas spend and Black Friday. We also saw some retailers reduce temporary seasonal staffing levels earlier than in previous years.

"Those at the forefront of the industry are continuing to adapt to the advance of the digital revolution by experimenting with new stores and offerings, driving a 1.5% increase in the number of outlets compared to a year ago. However, we don't expect to see a long-term trend in rising store numbers.

"Against the backdrop of cost pressures, fierce competition between retailers, evolving customer needs, and the lightning expansion of digital technology, many retailers are likely to continue re-examining staffing levels to continue adapting."

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