Retail employment rose by a “modest” 0.5% in the final quarter of 2011 but the outlook remains downbeat, as 38% of retailers prepare to cut staffing levels this quarter.

This compares with the 33% of retailers that were planning to cut staffing levels in the eqivalent period in 2010.

The 0.5% growth in retail employment equates to 4,074 jobs due to delayed seasonal staff recruitment and supermarkets recruiting employees as they expand, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor.

The fourth quarter saw just a 1% increase in the number of retail outlets, which is the slowest increase since October 2009.

The report found a clear division among sectors, with food retailers remaining positive on the outlook for retail employment, while non-food had a gloomier outlook.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “Following reductions in non-food staff numbers during 2011, we’re now seeing stores close.

“Retailers are focused on reducing costs and reviewing property portfolios, which means employment prospects are weakening.

“After a raft of retail failures in the first few weeks of 2012 there is a danger more stores will be pushed over the edge.”

Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, said: “Seasonal hiring provided a glimmer of hope for retail employment figures at the end of last year but sadly this won’t last.

“We have already seen a number of retailers enter administration since Christmas and there is no sign of any knight in shining armour for the industry.

“The disparity between food and non-food retailers remains and some supermarkets will continue to provide growth.

“However, for many non-food retailers the focus is more on survival than growth.”