Retail employment edged up 0.4% in the first quarter of 2012 as food retailers hired new recruits as they opened more stores, said the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Bond Pearce Employment Monitor.

The increase equates to 3,011 more full-time jobs in a period when the number of retail outlets grew by 4.9% - a net increase of 858 shops.

Non food retailers also added to full-time jobs in the period for the first time in almost a year.

Despite this uplift BRC director general Stephen Robertson said growth remains fragile, following the UK’s return to recession yesterday when GDP shrank 0.2%.

“None of these jobs can be taken for granted,” Robertson said. “Retailers are more positive about their immediate employment intentions than a year ago, but the GDP figures confirm 2012 will still be very tough for businesses and households.

“If it’s to rekindle growth the Government should not be putting extra tax and regulatory costs on retailers or consumers.” 

But retailers were also more positive in the first quarter of this year against the same period last year according to the data.

Of those businesses surveyed 71% said they will keep staffing levels unchanged against 54% in 2011, while 21% will increase staffing levels against 8% the previous year.

Bond Pearce head of retail employment Christina Tolvas-Vincent said: “Retailers must adapt and evolve in order to survive in these tough conditions, average earnings are still falling behind inflation, and this will shape consumer behaviour for some time to come.”