The BRC is pointing the finger at the government’s “sky-high business rates” for the continued decline in retail jobs across the country.

The latest ONS figures reveal the retail industry – one of the largest private employers in the country – lost 79,000 jobs between January and March 2019 year on year.

Overall the UK gained 589,000 jobs, a 1.7% increase compared to a 2.5% decline in the retail sector, which employed 3.1 million people during the period.

The number of jobs in the sector has been in decline for four consecutive quarters.

BRC head of retail insight and analytics Kyle Monk said: “It has been a turbulent year with many well-known brands disappearing from our high streets, as has been evidenced by the substantial loss in retail jobs this quarter. Political and economic uncertainty has compounded many of the challenges created by the pace of technological change.

“Nonetheless, retail remains the largest private employer in the UK, offering over 3 million jobs, or almost 9% of the total jobs in the UK economy. Many of the retail employment opportunities are offered in economically marginal areas and are taken by people who need to be able to work flexible hours and near to home.

“Sky-high business rates have made it harder for shops to make much-needed investments in their physical and digital offerings. It is time for the government to act; indeed, if they were as fast to act over the tens of thousands of retail jobs that have been lost in the last year as they are over smaller losses in manufacturing, then we might see a revival of our high streets and the communities they support.”