Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Industry Will Be Patient on Jobs Even in Rebound

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Industry Will Be Patient on Jobs Even in Rebound

Article excerpt

An economic recovery in 2004 will not likely lead to any sort of hiring surge, analysts and companies say

After the launch of INtake, a planned free weekly for young readers, The Indianapolis Star expects to employ 14 ad sales and editorial positions it didn't have before, a 1% staff increase. "We have a new publication. It doesn't just happen by itself," said Star Publisher Barbara Henry. "If you have revenue to support it, you hire."

If papers hire at all next year, these are the kinds of positions they're likely to add: sales and editorial people to staff news enhancements or new publications. But, as public companies are likely to say at two major investor conferences this week, hiring will remain conservative next year -- despite signs that recovery is under way.

Companies "see some improving advertising trends right now," and that keeps them from continuing to downsize, said Kevin Gruneich, newspaper analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. But he predicted industry employment will stay flat next year. Most companies have "tackled health care and benefits costs pretty well, as they've pushed most of that cost to the employees. ... But given that the advertising recovery has been choppy, we just don't see much movement to hire at this point."

Peter Appert, who follows newspapers for Goldman Sachs, said that after having cut an estimated 10% out of the workforce over the past three years, publishers could still trim as much as 1% next year. Companies are intent on protecting or growing profit margins, and he projected labor costs would rise about 4% to 5%.

Reductions will come through attrition in manufacturing, distribution, and administration, rather than news and sales, he predicted.

Even expansion-minded companies aren't necessarily looking at net staffing increases. At Belo, which has started niche publications in its newspaper markets while exploring more such opportunities, "We do not expect our new product launches to have an impact on head count," spokesman Scott Baradell wrote in an e-mail. …

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