Government research has revealed that the number of retail jobs across the UK has taken a hit of 67,000 year-on-year, with the total figure as of 31 December now sitting at 3.097 million.
This makes for the lowest number of total retail jobs in the UK in the three months to 31 December since 1999.
The number of total jobs across all sectors fell by 1.2 million through the year to December 2020, meanwhile.
British Retail Consortium chief executive, Helen Dickinson, commented: “While the Christmas quarter traditionally sees a rise in retail jobs, the last quarter of 2020 saw the lowest Q4 job numbers since 1999.
“While the second wave of the pandemic swept away tens of thousands of retail jobs, many more were saved by the Government’s furlough scheme, which is now providing support for 600,000 retail workers, a rise of 200,000 since December.
“This is likely to get worse if the third lockdown wears on, and while new jobs were created, focused in grocery and driving online capacity across the market, as well as many temporary jobs in the run up to Christmas, town and city centre stores continue to employ fewer and fewer people.”
Dickinson and other campaigners are pressuring the Government to prioritise retail in its plans if further lockdowns look possible.
She continued: “Now is the time to rebuild the economy. Retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK, meaning the strength of the industry remains important for the economy at large.
“The biggest threat to jobs and shops will be future lockdowns beyond April 12, and it is imperative the Government takes all necessary precautions to prevent that from happening.
“Any delays to the Prime Minister’s roadmap will undoubtedly result in more store closures and threaten the livelihoods of the retail workers currently furloughed.
“Retailers are working incredibly hard to ensure stores and operations are safe and ready for reopening, and it is essential that all retail is open and remains open, if it is to unlock the demand which will kickstart our economic recovery.”