Bernhart survey shows DM hiring slump

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A new study from Bernhart Associates shows that the economic slump is affecting direct marketers' hiring plans for the rest of 2008.

Of the 110 companies that responded to the survey in mid-September, only 31% said they planned to add to their company's headcount in the current fourth quarter, and 34% reported hiring freezes. Last quarter, 47% of companies surveyed planned to add employees, and only 20% underwent hiring freezes. The number of companies planning layoffs jumped from 12% over the summer to 17%.

“Things are getting worse,” said Jerry Bernhart, principal at Bernhart Associates Executive Search LLC. “We haven't bottomed out yet, and who knows when it will happen. This is the seventh straight quarter during which employers have indicated that they plan to hire fewer people. It's been gradual, but this last quarter the drop-off began to accelerate. The hiring freeze number jumped a lot, too, and that's to be expected in a very uncertain environment.”

Bernhart noted, however, that nearly one-third of those surveyed are still hiring, and that sales and analytics experts have been most in demand all year.

He added, too, that the survey is a “lagging indicator,” not a “leading indicator,” which means that it parallels what's going on with the economy at large.

“If the economy starts to level off, we may be bottoming out,” he explained. “If we're heading into a steep recession, these numbers will reflect that after the fact.”

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