Employment in the retail sector increased by 0.4% in Q1, with 4.9% more stores trading, although there are fresh warnings that 2012 will continue to be difficult for retailers. March saw the greatest increase, with 1.3% more full time equivalent jobs compared to the same month in 2011, based on 5% more stores. The increase in February was 0.6% (4.7% more stores), while January saw a 0.6% decline (4.9% more outlets). Across the quarter, there were 3,011 more full and part-time jobs compared to the same period in 2011, the BRC-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor reports. In represents welcome news, coming the day after it was revealed that the UK economy has slipped back into recession. Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium director general, said “The small increase in overall retail employment for the first quarter of this year is encouraging but it is clear from our return to recession just how fragile any growth is. None of these jobs can be taken for granted.” Meanwhile, the proportion of retailers indicating they would decrease staffing levels fell to 8% compared with 29% this time last year. It marks a significant improvement in employment intentions for the time of year, the first since the Monitor started in October 2008. More than two thirds (71%) of the businesses surveyed said they’d keep staffing levels unchanged, against 54% last year. Robertson added: “Retailers are more positive about their immediate employment intentions than a year ago, but the GDP figures confirm 2012 will still be very tough for businesses and households. If it’s to rekindle growth the Government should not be putting extra tax and regulatory costs on retailers or consumers.”