DM Industry Showing Signs of Recovery, Job Survey Says

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More than two-thirds of direct marketing companies plan to add staff by the end of June, just one of several positive signs in a survey released yesterday by Bernhart Associates.


Of the 129 DM companies responding to the e-mail survey, 68 percent plan to add staff in the second quarter. One-quarter of those said the hires will be replacements only, while the rest will combine replacements and new hires. The survey also found that most new hiring will occur in non-catalog mail and database.


Job categories most in demand included account management, technical, database management and analysis.


"We also noticed a sharp jump in demand for marketing positions and clerical help," said Jerry Bernhart, president, Bernhart Associates, Owatonna, MN, a direct marketing executive search firm.


The percentage of companies with hiring freezes has declined for the first time since spring 2001, he said.


"This is our fifth quarterly survey so we now have year-to-year comparisons," he said. "Last spring we saw the beginning of a steady rise in the percentage of companies announcing hiring freezes. That peaked at 38 percent in the winter survey but now some of those hiring freezes are being lifted."


Another positive sign is that only three of the 129 companies plan to reduce staff in the next three months, down from 11 percent last fall.


"There has also been a slight pickup in inquiries for executive search, indicating that confidence levels are slowly coming back, with pharmaceuticals and financial services leading the way," Bernhart said. "Clearly, the numbers show that the worst is behind us, barring any unexpected economic shocks. But the recovery is brittle, and the waters are still murky."


For example, 30 percent of the companies still have a hiring freeze.


"Many said they expect hiring freezes to remain in effect until business conditions begin to significantly improve, and many don't expect that to happen for another three to four months," he said.


Bernhart also said that for the first time since the mid-1980s, there has been an overall decrease in the total salary for top performers. Most of the decrease is based on reductions in performance bonuses for the most senior positions.


"By my estimates, total compensation for V.P.-level candidates is, on average, down about 20 percent so far this year compared with 2001," he said. "Salaries for mid-level positions have, for the most part, remained flat compared with a year ago."


New participants that want to be included in the summer 2002 survey should send an e-mail to info@directmarketingcareers.com and put "Opt-In" in the subject line.


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