Retail employment increased by 2.9% in the third quarter (Q3) of 2012 compared with a year earlier, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The agency noted that the growth was the fastest in two years, which is equivalent to 20,533 additional full-time jobs in the sampled retailers.

The increase in jobs was manily driven by part-time workers, particularly in the grocery sector while the number of outlets and full-time jobs fell in non-food retailing.

Commenting on the statistics British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said the strongest retail jobs growth for two years looks like another reason for optimism.

"With good news about employment generally, signs that disposable incomes, consumer spending and inflation are moving in the right direction and expectations that we’re about to see GDP growth return to positive territory, there’s a sense that things could be getting better," Robertson added.

About 68% of retailers suggested that they would increase staffing levels in the run-up to Christmas.

Retailers’ employment intentions have improved year-on-year, BRIC said.

All the growth in jobs and shop numbers have come from the food sector, while the non-food retailing employment is flat and shops are closing down, Robertson noted.

Retail Employment business law firm Bond Pearce head Christina Tolvas-Vincent said, "We can look at these figures with cautious optimism; 20,500 extra jobs is certainly good news but it masks the divided fortunes of the food and non-food retailers."