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Economics & Research Blog

Shift in Employment from Print to Other Media Intensifies

Last week'

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: November 9, 2011

Last week's national unemployment data was a sideways-moving report, with some mild upside that was within the ranges of statistical error. So, more of the same ahead, with unemployment hovering around 9%. I saw some analyses that there are now large numbers of unemployment payment recipients who no longer qualify to receive them, and are leaving the workforce. So some economists are forecasting that the unemployment rate will be improving soon because the workforce will be shrinking. I'll leave all that to the statisticians, but it's something to watch out for. In the meantime, there are some very interesting things happening with printing employment, unfortunately to the downside. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that printing employment contracted by -1,900 workers from September to October. The greatest majority of those were production workers, which is not a good sign for Q4-2011 industry shipments. Since last year, printing employment has dropped by -19,400 workers (October 2011 vs. October 2010). At the same time, employment in advertising agencies and graphic design firms has increased by +24,900 (September 2011 vs. September 2010). (Click on table to enlarge). Employment in printing, advertising + graphic design peaked in mid-2000 at a little under 1.4 million workers. Today, the combination of the industries is nearly 960,000, so employment is down in all of them since that time, but advertising + graphic design is growing again. It's probably even greater, since freelance workers are not included in the calculations. The chart below shows the percentage of the total that printing and advertising + graphic design represent of the totals. This past year, the number of workers in agencies + design now exceeds print, and believe that there is good reason to believe it's the first time in history that this is so. (Click on chart to enlarge).

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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