Survey: Outlook for DM Employment Remains Tight

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The number of direct marketing companies reporting hiring freezes continues to rise, according to a survey from Bernhart Associates Executive Search, a firm that focuses exclusively on the direct marketing industry.

The Winter 2002 DM Employment survey, however, also showed a sharp decline in the number of companies planning further staff reductions.

"In the fall survey, 11 percent of companies responding said they were planning staff reductions," said Jerry Bernhart of the Owatonna, MN-based executive search firm. "That has dropped to 6 percent."

Bernhart said other encouraging signs are that the percentage of companies planning to add to staff has fallen only slightly -- from 54 percent in the fall survey to 51 percent -- and an increasing portion of those new hires will be additions instead of replacements.

Bernhart said 228 direct marketing companies participated in the latest survey, which was e-mailed the week of Jan. 13.

In the winter survey, 38 percent of respondents said they have hiring freezes in effect, up from 31 percent in the fall and 20 percent last spring. Asked when they plan to lift the freezes, Bernhart said, most gave no time frame, citing continued uncertainty.

"Even when hiring freezes are lifted, it's going to become more difficult to justify added headcount," he said. "Nearly half of those responding said non-standard approval processes will be required for new hires. Bottom line, it's still a challenging time for many job seekers. Unemployed candidates are telling us it is taking an average of about 10 weeks to land a new job."

But the good news, Bernhart said, is that many direct marketing companies plan to hire at the low- to mid-levels between now and April.

"I've also seen a pickup in executive search activity the past couple of weeks, indicating companies have open positions that have been difficult to fill," he said.

Once again, demand will be strongest for sales and analytic positions, continuing a trend that began in last year's spring survey as direct marketers focus on positions with more top and bottom line impact. Direct marketers also plan to add positions in client services, account management, project management, administration and technical.

Companies wishing to be included in the spring survey should e-mail and include "Survey Opt-In" in the subject.

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