Wednesday, December 16, 2009

After You, My Dear Alphonse

Ehren Meditz, one of the devoted band who will not let copy editing die, sends me this report on "Employment Projections, 2008-18," from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to it, the largest decline in employment over this period -- which, of course, we are two years into -- will come in: No, not that. In department store employment, which is estimated to fall by 159,000 jobs to a total of 1,398,000, or a loss of 10.2 percent.

The third highest percentage hit, however, is to come from newspaper publishing, which is estimated to lose 24.8 percent of its jobs over the period, falling to 245,000 jobs from 326,000. (What's worse? "Cut and sew apparel manufacturing" and "semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing.")

In 1996, newspaper industry employment was 442,000 -- meaning that the estimate is for the loss of nearly half the jobs over a 22-year period. In 2005, however, we were down to 370,000 jobs. How many people have lost their jobs in 2009? Depending on where you were during the year, somewhere between 8,000 and 15,000.

Let's say it's the worse figure. That means a loss of, what, 66,000 jobs over the next eight years. Or, about 8,000 per year. In other words, every year for the next eight years would be basically like this year.

This sort of stuff is beyond me, but -- every year for the next eight years like this one?

Thank heavens, E&P is still with us, at least through December. It reacts by quoting analyst John Morton:

"I suspect what has happened in recent years has a big influence on how they predict the future. I don't know how they base those predictions. It is an unknown. A lot of it is going to depend on how the newspaper industry comes out of the recession and how successful they are in translating their business onto the Internet. One thing that would be supportive of newspaper employment is that 70% of daily newspapers have circulation under 50,000. Those kinds of newspapers have suffered far less than big city papers have. Going forward, they will suffer less."

And Poynter's Rick Edmonds:

"That is consistent with what has been happening the past three years. But I don't think the next three years will be as bad."

So what's the truth. Is it the labor statistic? Is it, well, maybe this:

"What are publishers' expectations for 2010? Not as bad as one would think according to an outlook report from Kubas Consultants that polled 500 newspapers executives in November to get their thoughts on future advertising and strategic initiatives.

"Ed Strapagiel, executive vice president of Kubas and author of the report, ventures that 2010 might be the year of the bottom. Don't expect newspapers to be turning in major positive ad growth results, though. From quarter to quarter things are anticipated to improve or 'decline less quickly.'

"'Newspaper executives and managers are significantly less pessimistic than a year ago,' Strapagiel wrote.

One of the more surprising finds to come out of the survey is that many respondents said they don't expect to outsource ad sales or printing next year. Nor do they anticipate upgrading the presses or cutting frequency.

Remarkably, one in four respondents said they plan to start a specialty, niche or lifestyle product. That said publishers intend on tightening operating budgets next year.

'Things won't get much better, but they won't get much worse either,' Strapagiel wrote. 'If the same trend continues, we could see positive growth in 2011.'"

would indicate that publishers see a year of somewhat consolidating where they are now, and looking for areas to make additional money while maintaining their current operations. In other words, fighting back.

It will be hard to do that if one has to cut 8,000 jobs from the industry. Moving semiconductor manufacturing overseas is probably much more predictable than the volatile information business.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects from current trends. As this blog has said from day one, current trends never continue indefinitely.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I suspect what has happened in recent years has a big influence on how they predict the future. I don't know how they base those predictions. (John Morton).

It's not a complete mystery. The BLS does say how it does the predictions.

The other fairly major thing about the projection for newspaper publishers that no-one seems to have looked up at BLS is which jobs they are predicting to decline most..

They predict an increase in the number of editors and writers relative to printers, binders, advertising managers, prepress technicians.