The UK should be a place “where starting an enterprise or creating a job - even just one job - is genuinely valued by society”. That was Vince Cable speaking a couple of months ago. So how much value should be attached to 22,000 new jobs?
It’s the figure revealed by the first ever BRC-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor. It means that, on a full-time equivalent basis, the retailers taking part are providing 3.6% more jobs than they were a year ago - as well as adding 486 new stores.
Good news for the people now in those jobs and an encouraging sign that, while some sectors are cutting staff, retail is helping to deliver the recovery.
So why have we created the monitor?
With retailing accounting for 8% of GDP and 11% of all jobs, it’s vital that there is an up-to-date measure of retail employment to inform policy making and track the state of the overall economy.
But this has long been an information void. The Office for National Statistics’ numbers have always taken three to four months to produce and lately they have become even less current. Due to “system issues”, the most recent figures it has are from December.
We are plugging that gap by getting ours out within four weeks of the end of the quarter they measure.
That gives us a powerful new weapon as we fight the battle to influence Government in retail’s favour.
With much speculation about the extent to which private sector jobs can replace the thousands of public sector jobs expected to be lost over the next few years, our monitor clearly shows that the sector is willing to put money in to build the recovery.
Retailers are extremely important investors in employment and property. Even in tough times, we open new shops. We create jobs and we create wealth.
Often new store developments come with public services as part of the deal - health centres and community facilities. There’s no question that retail is making a very positive contribution.
The message we’re taking to politicians is: “If you’re going to increase the burden on retail through extra employment costs or property costs, that will limit our ability to continue to make that positive contribution.”
In a country where the deficit means public spending has to be cut back, only the private sector can produce the growth needed. Politicians can’t implement public sector cuts without allowing a benign environment that encourages private sector investment.
I’m certain the Retail Employment Monitor will quickly evolve the same reputation and value as our Retail Sales Monitor. I’ve already used it in presentations to Vince Cable and environment secretary Caroline Spelman. It provides concrete evidence to help us say “this is what retail’s doing. Help us with the job”.