The number of jobs in the retail industry has fallen at the fastest rate since 2014 as “fierce competition” piles pressure on businesses.

Full time equivalent (FTE) employment in the retail industry fell 2.4% in the second quarter of 2016, compared with the same period last year.

A drop in the number of FTE jobs at food retailers drove the total decline "as fierce competition continues to impact heavily on the sector”, according to the most recent data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) employment monitor.

Meanwhile, non-food retailers fared better, reporting a marginal rise in the number of FTE jobs.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “As an industry we are working to ensure that the jobs that remain in UK retailing are higher skilled and more productive.

“Challenging economic conditions, fierce competition between retailers, customers’ ever-changing shopping preferences, the lightning expansion of digital technology and external demands placed on retailers by government have all put pressure on the UK’s retail businesses.”

The BRC also found that the total number of stores slipped 0.4% year on year, with food retailers driving the decline for the second consecutive quarter.

However, the fall in food store numbers during the period was lower than in the previous quarter, and for the second consecutive quarter the number of non-food stores grew. 

“This continues to show the dramatic structural changes that are under way in the retail industry,” Dickinson said.

Despite the decline in jobs, fast food restaurant chain McDonald’s revealed yesterday that it plans to create 5,000 new roles by the end of next year.