DM Hiring Strong, Pay Cuts, Bonuses Being Reinstated

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Agency staffing levels, which has been a leading economic indicator, are on the rise, according to the most recent direct marketing employment survey from Bernhart Associates.

There’s additional good news for those with jobs, at least as far as salary levels are concerned. “Companies are talking about reinstating the pay cuts they have made during the last few years,” Bernhart Associates principal Jerry Bernhart tells Chief Marketer. “And bonuses are returning as well.”

Among the three categories of direct marketing employers the survey tracks – agencies, suppliers and marketers – “agencies are on fire,” Bernhart adds. Nearly two-thirds – 64% — anticipate adding staff, compared with 52% of suppliers and 48% of marketers. Overall, 52% of respondents indicate they will boost employee levels, up from 41% in fourth-quarter 2010.

“This is no real surprise,” says Bernhart. “I’ve been through several downturns and recoveries, and agencies are the lead dog when it comes to increasing head count. And the first to cut, too.”

Within agencies, the most-frequently mentioned open positions are in account management, followed by creative staff. Web development and other IT staff came in a close third.

“One agency is looking to hire 25 people,” Bernhart says. “These include senior directors and mid-level managers. Lots of analytic positions.”

Broken out by customer focus, business-to-business companies are somewhat more likely to make hires (55%) than their consumer-focused counterparts (50%). Three percent of B-to-B firms anticipate staff reductions, as do 4% of consumer marketers.

Unsurprisingly, as the number of firms planning staff increases has risen, the percentage anticipating cuts has dropped – from 35% in fourth-quarter 2010 to 16% in first-quarter 2011.

The findings of the most recent survey were based on 399 completed questionnaires. Bernhart Associates mailed more than 11,000 copies of its survey to senior executives, hiring managers, human resource officials and other corporate functions during the first two weeks of January. Companies interested in participating in the quarterly survey should send an email to survey@bernhart.com with “opt-in” in the subject line.

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