Survey: War Hasn't Hurt DM Hiring Plans

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Nearly three-quarters of direct marketers are sticking with second-quarter hiring plans despite economic uncertainties raised by the war in Iraq, according to a survey released yesterday by executive search firm Bernhart Associates.


"Overall, the survey is showing slight improvement in the employment outlook compared with the beginning of the year," said Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, Owatonna, MN. "More companies are planning to add to staff, and fewer have hiring freezes. If not for war worries, we'd be looking at a much brighter picture."


In the survey, 69 percent said they are keeping their 90-day employment plans intact. Six percent are reducing headcount because of the war, while 7 percent are imposing hiring freezes as a result of the conflict.


Moreover, 15 percent said they are taking it one war alert at a time, unsure what employment developments will occur. One percent said they expect to add to staff because of the war.


The survey was e-mailed the week of March 24, and 302 direct marketing companies responded.


In the survey, 59 percent of the companies said they planned to add to staff in the current second quarter, up from 55 percent in January. Most will be new hires rather than replacements. The biggest improvement over last quarter was the percentage of companies reporting a hiring freeze, falling to 22 percent from 30 percent at the start of the year.


The survey also shows that 11 percent plan to reduce staff in the current quarter, and another 12 percent said they might, both up from January.


"It's still a tough job market out there, and based on the level of uncertainty seen in this survey it will probably get tougher if the war drags on," Bernhart said. "I've seen a definite slowdown in activity during the past several weeks."


Among companies planning to add staff, the near-term outlook looks best for sales representatives, account managers, analysts and customer service. Among companies responding, direct marketing, advertising and sales promotion agencies topped the list, followed by catalog, list, computer services, lettershop and mailing services, publishers, software and financial services.


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