Are We There Yet?

By Andrew Paparozzi
In October 15, 2009

That’s a question parents hear all too frequently on trips with their young children. It’s also a question that’s being posed over the nascent recovery—have we reached the point when we can categorically say we are firmly in recovery? Similar to the answer often given by parents—we still have to say “almost”. Data on the economy, while not spectacular, continue to provide evidence that business conditions are mending. The natural cyclical processes that follow downturns are taking hold, as companies and individuals work off many of the excesses that steepened the decline. The economy will recover (overall business activity will increase)—to what extent and for which sectors is a discussion for another day.

As for print, we’re also seeing the early stages of a turnaround, albeit with a lag, which is to be expected. Just as companies in general are not about to go on a hiring binge, they’re not about to fully open the spigots on their marketing and advertising budgets. Nonetheless, there are early indications that conditions in our industry are turning or about to. According to seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), total production hours for printing and related support activities in the third quarter were down just 0.5% from the previous quarter. This follows declines in the first and second quarters of 6.4% and 2.9%, respectively. Moreover, responses from the NAPL Printing Business Panel continue to offer encouragement that business conditions are definitely moving off the bottom. When last surveyed, 33.8% of the Panel responded “no” when asked if they were seeing any encouraging signs—no matter how minor. This is roughly half the percentage (62.3%) that responded similarly in March.

However, as conditions in the economy and the commercial printing industry continue to improve, it is critically important that we keep this in mind: To a large extent, success among companies in our industry (sustainable success to be more precise) will not be dependent on the strength of the unfolding economic recovery. If not the economy, what? More and more, as our industry continues to become more competitive and more complex, achieving sustainable success hinges on identifying and addressing the structural changes that continue to redefine it. Improving—doing what we already do better—is good, but it may not be enough. It may not be enough to guarantee that you’ll participate in the recovery beyond enjoying a temporary boost in sales. For a detailed discussion of these issues, see the NAPL State of the Industry Report, Eight Edition, and for assistance in tracking your performance through “vital-few metrics analysis,” check out NAPL’s Performance Indicators program.

Andrew Paparozzi        Joseph Vincenzino        Kong Lue Wang

Andrew Paparozzi

Epicomm's Andrew Paparozzi, Vice President/Chief Economist, is well-known for his accurate and thoughtful discussions on the economy and US commercial printing industry. A foremost author and speaker on economic business trends in the printing industry, Paparozzi heads Epicomm's Printing Economic Research Center.

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