Jobs on the high street are disappearing at their fastest rate in two years, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

According to its latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey, the number of jobs cut by employers was at its highest of around 40%, compared to 13% of retailers increasing employee levels, showing an overall balance of -27%.

Sales volumes have also decreased since last November, the sixth consecutive month, with 44% of employers marking a fall and 26% reporting an increase. The resulting rounded balance of -19% was weaker than expected (a balance of +4%), and represents the fastest decline in sales since March 2009 (-44%).

Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: “Retailers remain hard-pressed, even as we get closer to Christmas. Retailers may be hoping that shoppers will loosen their purse strings in the run-up to Christmas, but consumers are likely to remain cautious about spending given the uncertain economic outlook.”

The volume of orders made with suppliers fell in November (-25%) at the fastest rate since March 2009 (-47%). Orders are set to continue falling next month.

Wholesalers have seen sales volumes growth decline in November (-13%), expecting them to decrease at the same rate next month, with average selling prices vastly increasing since a year ago (+48%).

Retail businesses are holding back on investment plans over the next 12 months (-4%), though to a lesser extent than in August (-16%).

Overall, 8% of retailers said they feel more negative about the business situation over the next three months than they did three months ago.