Print Industry Employment

By Andrew Paparozzi
In April 8, 2008

The labor market report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was rather bleak, with widespread job losses across several sectors and downward revisions in the previous two months. More and more it appears that the economy is or will soon be contracting. In this environment, what’s been happening to employment in the printing industry?

According to the March report, preliminary data for print and related support activities show overall employment after seasonal adjustment edging higher in March to 614,600. Production employment also rose in March totaling 441,900. However, we’ll go out on a limb and state that the respective increases of 100 and 400 from February aren’t signaling a turning point. Overall employment for the industry was down 2.1% in the first quarter when compared to a year ago, with production employment down 1.4%. For all of 2007, the declines were -1.6% and -0.5%, respectively. Furthermore, average weekly hours for production employees were down more than a full hour from a year ago, 38.3 vs. 39.4. Average weekly overtime hours were down sharply in February from a year ago, 2.2 vs. 3.2. These data are consistent with the latest reading from the NAPL Printing Business Panel. In February, 39.2% of the Panel reported that total factory payroll hours were lower than a year ago—more than double the 18.6% reporting higher payroll hours.

In reaction to slowing sales and thinning margins, the printing industry has been cutting both employment and hours. Don’t expect this to change anytime soon. Our outlook for commercial printing industry sales from all sources (not just printing) has 2008 recording the worst performance for the industry in five years, with an actual decline in sales by as much as 1.0% a real possibility. Before we see some stabilization in print industry employment, look for an increase in hours and overtime. In a subsequent posting we’ll review the long-term trends and structural issues pertaining to print industry employment.

Joseph Vincenzino

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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