Retailers are likely to defy the spreading gloom this quarter and hire more staff than they fire, according to recruitment firm Manpower.
A regular survey of job prospects found that 28 per cent of retail employers expect to increase staffing levels against 16 per cent expecting a decrease.
'It's the best prospects in the retailing sector for a decade,' said a Manpower spokesman. 'It seems extraordinary, but it reflects our own experience in providing staff to the sector.'
The quarterly survey has been running for 37 years, winning enough credibility to be one of the factors considered by the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee.
The employment outlook for retail contradicts other recent indicators, such as sales figures and corporate profits, which have been largely negative.
Manpower said that, in part, the buoyancy reflects the low level of unemployment in the wider economy. UK unemployment only increased during one month last year.
Across the 22 industry sectors covered by the 2,000-plus companies surveyed, staffing levels are expected to rise in all regions of the UK.
London is among the weakest performers, but employers are more positive than during any first quarter of the 1990s. The capital is slightly more negative than for the start of 2001.
Yorkshire & Humberside is the least positive region and Wales the most positive.