Retail employment fell at a faster rate in the first three months of 2019 compared to the previous quarter, due to structural changes in the industry, according to the British Retail Consortium.

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Year-on-year total employment fell by 2.4% in Q1 2019, the equivalent of 74,400 jobs, following a 2.2% reduction seen in the previous quarter, the BRC Retail Employment Monitor revealed.

While the number of stores rose, this was mainly driven by an increase in small format stores, with many larger stores closing in response to the growth of online sales - resulting in a net job loss.

The BRC said the downward employment trend in the retail industry was “in stark contrast” to the UK economy as a whole, with employment at the highest level since ONS records began.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson warned that more jobs were likely to disappear without a shift in government policy.

“Retail is undergoing a period of unprecedented change in response to new technologies and changing consumer behaviour. The investment required to successfully navigate this transformation is being held back by the rising cost of public policy,” she said.

“Over three million people rely directly on the retail sector for jobs, with many more working throughout the supply chain. Yet spiralling business costs pose a grave threat to these jobs – as recent administrations, CVAs, and store closures show.”