Bernhart Associates Executive Search's Jerry Bernhart on the Possibility of DM Unemployment Bottoming Out
The most widely followed employment report in the direct marketing industry, distributed to thousands of agencies, service providers and direct marketing organizations, the Bernhart Associates Employment Survey is now in its eighth year. It tracks an industry that employs and directly supports 10.9 million jobs in the United States and accounts for approximately 10 percent of the total gross domestic product, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
Amid the obvious rise in layoffs and downsizings because of the economic downturn, there's also been fewer overall employment opportunities for new workers and experienced alike—which makes the survey more watched than ever, with everyone from direct mail copywriters and designers to general direct marketers and upper management looking for a halt to the bloodletting and hints of recovery.
The second quarterly report of 2009 was completed recently, and it had more direct marketing companies (260) participate than for any other survey, says Jerry Bernhart, owner and principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, based in Owatonna, Minn. "There are some hopeful signs that the two-year decline in direct marketing employment may soon be hitting bottom," he asserts.
The highly anticipated survey of 2009's third quarter will be next. In the meantime, here is my discussion with Bernhart about the many challenges that the direct marketing creative pool faces today.
Boldt: What was some of the best news in the second quarter report?
Bernhart: On the plus side, there was a 4 percent drop in hiring plans—the smallest quarter-to-quarter decline for that indicator in a year—while planned layoffs showed an unexpected reversal. Thirteen percent said they are planning to reduce head count during the current second quarter, down from 21 percent reported during the first quarter. The best news came in the hiring freeze category, with 30 percent of respondents reporting a hiring freeze, down considerably from 48 percent last quarter. Most marketers couldn't tell me when they planned to lift their freezes, but those that did give a time frame said six to nine months from the second quarter.
Boldt: And some of the worst?
Bernhart: Fewer companies are hiring right now. Sixteen percent of the companies responding said they are planning to add to staff during the current second quarter, the lowest percentage since the survey began in 2001. This is the eighth quarter in a row that hiring in direct marketing has been shrinking. So hiring levels are still falling, but the worst of the job losses may be over.