Survey: DM Hiring Plans Heat Up

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Showing sharp improvement over last year, nearly two-thirds of direct marketers plan new hires this quarter, according to the latest DM employment survey by Bernhart Associates Executive Search Inc.

"The new jobs index, the one we follow most closely, is up 13 percent over last quarter, representing the biggest quarter-to-quarter increase since the survey began three years ago," said Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates, Owatonna, MN. "Plans to add staff are broad-based across all major job categories."

The survey also shows that one out of five direct marketing companies still has a hiring freeze, though the percentage of companies with freezes continues to decline and employers are eliminating added approval requirements once those freezes are lifted.

Survey results are published in the Direct Marketing Association's annual Statistical Fact Book.

"We're also seeing a significant pickup in recruiting activity from entry level up to senior management," Bernhart said. "Calls are coming in from both users and suppliers. Boards of directors are giving executives the green light to add headcount so they can hit more aggressive revenue targets for 2004."

Bernhart said that taken together the indicators are at their best levels since summer 2001.

"What this shows is that barring any unexpected shocks, the slow turnaround in direct marketing employment that began this past fall is not only going to continue, by all indications it's going to accelerate," he said. "Another sure sign of steady recovery is that an increasing number of candidates are once again receiving multiple offers."

Sixty-four percent of respondents plan to add staff this quarter, up from 51 percent last quarter. Only the proportion of companies planning further layoffs showed a negative trend, rising to 12 percent from 9 percent last quarter.

"The layoff indicator doesn't worry us too much because we think some of that might be seasonal," Bernhart said.

Bernhart said the survey shows hiring is expected to pick up in many of the major direct marketing job categories, with account management, creative, customer service, production, analytics, marketing, operations, database, administrative, sales, technical and project management all trending higher.

A total of 194 DM companies took part in the survey, which was e-mailed the week of Jan. 11. Companies interested in being added to the quarterly survey should send an e-mail to with "opt-in" in the subject line.

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