Fewer DM Hirings, Layoffs Planned

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Direct marketers are scaling back new hiring plans for the rest of this year, but they also are planning fewer layoffs and gradually lifting their hiring freezes, according to a survey released yesterday by executive search firm Bernhart Associates Executive Search, Owatonna, MN.

"Among the companies responding, nearly 20 percent of all positions to be filled between now and the end of the year will be analytic-related," said Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates, which conducts the quarterly Direct Marketing Employment Survey. "This was a trend we predicted earlier in the year. Direct marketers are looking for ways to be smarter about the customer. However, it still remains a buyer's market out there."

Of the 214 companies responding to the survey, 51 percent plan to add to staff in the fourth quarter, down from 60 percent in the summer. Most of the additions will be new positions rather than replacements. The percentage of companies with hiring freezes fell to 22 percent, the lowest since the survey began in early 2001.

"In our executive search business we've had an increasing number of companies contact us for 'must-fill' positions," he said. "Positions considered less than critical are still being back-burnered."

Bernhart also said that the rate of hiring is about even compared with a year ago.

"Rising productivity is suggesting that direct marketers, like other segments of the economy, are able to delay adding workers," he said. "Companies can book profits, keep hiring to a minimum and survive on outsized productivity gains -- at least for a little while longer. We could very well get into next spring without any significant pickup in hiring."

When asked whether they plan to reduce staff, 9 percent of companies said they would cut headcount in the fourth quarter, down from 11 percent last quarter.

The survey also shows a sharp jump in anticipated demand for entry-level and junior direct marketing positions during the rest of the year.

Results of past surveys beginning with 2001 can be found in the Direct Marketing Association's Statistical Fact Book.

Companies that wish to participate in the next quarterly survey for winter 2004 should send an e-mail to survey@bernhart.com with "opt-in" in the subject line.

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