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The recession appears to be slightly easing its grip on direct-marketing employment, as a smaller percentage of marketers are reporting layoff plans in Q309 vs. Q209 and more say they will hire staff in the coming three months, reports Bernhart Associates Executive Search LLC, in its latest employment update.

Despite these small improvements, there will not likely be any significant employment recovery until at least 2010, according to Jerry Bernhart, principal of Bernhart Associates.

On a positive note, 20% of survey respondents say they plan to add staff during the current summer quarter, up from 16% in the spring:

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At the same time, reports of anticipated layoffs declined for the third quarter in a row, with 8% planning to reduce staff in Q309, compared with 13% in Q209 and 20% at the start of 2009.

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On a more pessimistic note, the number of companies reporting hiring freezes held steady at 30%, the survey found. This figure was even higher for agencies, with 44% reporting that they’re holding the line on new hires. The vast majority of those with freezes also expect them to remain in place through the rest of 2009.

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Recovery Slow to Come

Though Bernhart said these latest survey results indicate that the direct marketing job market is “scraping the bottom,” he does not foresee any significant comeback in direct marketing hiring until at least 2010.

“You can’t stage a recovery with only one in five direct marketers planning to hire, and one-third of the others holding on to hiring freezes with no plans to lift them until at least the end of the year,” he stated. He also noted that companies say they are thinking about hiring, but are still slow to pull the trigger.

B2B Fares Better than B2C

Business-to-business direct marketers are faring better overall in the key employment indicators compared with their business-to-consumer counterparts, according to the survey.

For example, when asked if they plan to reduce staff, 13% of business-to-consumer direct marketers said they expect further layoffs this summer, compared with 9% among business-to-business respondents.

Filling Jobs Not Easy

Despite the abundance of job seekers, the survey also found that filling open direct marketing positions is not always an easy task. When asked if they were experiencing difficulty hiring new talent, 42% said it was either “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to fill certain positions.

When asked what specific positions will be in greatest demand this summer, Bernhart said the list of job categories included analytics, sales, creative, technical and marketing. “There was lots of mention of analytics from agencies, service providers and marketers,” he said.

About the survey: Bernhart Associates has been issuing quarterly direct marketing employment reports since 2001. A record 402 companies responded to the random survey, which was emailed the week of June 22.

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