The retail industry added 3,400 jobs to the economy in the first three months of the year, despite the tough trading environment.

Data from the British Retail Consortium showed an additional 837 shops had opened compared to the first quarter of 2010 – an increase of 5.3%.

But there were 5,000 fewer full-time jobs in March than in the same month last year, partly due to the late Easter affecting seasonal staffing levels.

A third of retailers warned they were likely to cut staffing levels over the next three months, due to weak consumer demand. This time last year, just 8% said they expected to axe staff.

“Consumer demand is weak and retailers, looking ahead and trying to keep their operating costs down, are less optimistic about future employment,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson.

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