Morrisons reduced its workforce by nearly 900 last year, despite pledging to create as many as 6,000 jobs.

The supermarket chain had 131,207 staff on its books in the year to 29 January 2012 - 867 fewer than the 132,074 it recorded in the year to 30 January 2011 - according to its latest accounts.

The reduction comes despite Morrisons swelling its estate by 37 stores during 2011, a move that it claimed back in January 2011 would create 6,000 jobs. At the time, Morrisons said 5,700 roles would be created in new stores, while 300 would be created by the expansion of its food manufacturing arm. The retailer has also pledged to create a further 7,000 new jobs this year.

“Because of Morrisons’ expanding business, we are in a position to recruit more people and invest in developing their skills, training them to be qualified butchers, bakers and fishmongers as well,” cheif executive Dalton Philips said at the time.

It is the second successive year Morrisons has reduced its workforce, despite rapid expansion and strong sales. Although Morrisons opened 43 new stores in the year to 30 January 2011, during the period it reduced its headcount by 1,669 - from 133,743 to 132,074.

The revelation comes hot on the heels of Tesco’s pledge earlier this month to create 20,000 new jobs in the UK over the next two years. Its claims were questioned by the Association of Convenience Stores, which said Tesco had pledged to create 30,000 new jobs between 2008 and 2011, but had actually created fewer than 12,000.

On Morrisons’ figures, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “This is the latest example of a company failing to deliver on its headline-grabbing job claims. It really is time for companies to stop giving a misleading impression of the tough trading conditions being experienced by retailers.”

Retailers had a responsibility to portray the state of the retail sector honestly, Lowman said. “If we don’t we allow politicians to think that the sector doesn’t need support such as action to reduce business rates and employment costs,” he added.

However, a Morrisons spokeswoman insisted: “Last year, we announced that we would create 6,000 new jobs in our 20 new stores in 2011 as well as through the expansion of our manufacturing base. In that time, we opened 21 stores creating more than 6,000 jobs in those communities.

“Of course, we’re always looking to become more efficient across the whole of the business.”