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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Sainsbury's has urged the Chancellor to reduce the burden of National Insurance (NI) to help boost job creation and the economic recovery.

Justin King, who took the helm in March 2004, also said he had no plans to step down in the next 12 months from Sainsbury's as he unveiled a rise in half-year sales and profits ahead of its listed rivals, Morrisons and Tesco.

Ahead of Chancellor George Osborne making his Autumn Statement on 5 December, Mr King called NI a "tax on jobs".

He said: "Nothing does more for the health of the economy than having more people in jobs – it builds confidence, reduces the burden of unemployment on the state and increases retail expenditure. It is up to the Government to decide the best way to achieve it, but one option could be a National Insurance holiday on new jobs for 12 months."

Sainsbury's, which has 1,063 stores, said it is creating 20,000 seasonal jobs over Christmas, with 2,000 of those hired expected to be kept on permanently.

Following recent speculation on his own role, Mr King said he had no plans to step down over the next 12 months.

He said: "I do understand why, when someone's been in a job for eight years successfully, people think they'd have on their mind doing something else, but I'm very happy at Sainsbury's."

The grocer grew pre-tax profits by 5.4 per cent to £373m over the 28 weeks to 29 September, on total sales up 4 per cent to £13.37bn.

Mr King said it had outperformed the grocery market, boosted by sponsorship of the Paralympics and strong growth at its convenience stores, online grocery operation and general merchandise business. It grew sales by 1.7 per cent in its first half to cap 31 consecutive quarters of growth.

Sainsbury's grew sales by 1.9 per cent in its second quarter, compared with a 2.1 per cent fall at Morrisons and a 0.1 per cent rise at Tesco in the UK.