Thursday, January 1, 2009

Year End Jobless

Lots of newspaper folks felt the sharp edge of the ax in 2008. Tallying up the numbers, however, is not easy. One source puts it at more than 15,586 nationwide ( . But the numbers are not attributed so they can't be verified.

For more reliable numbers, I turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which breaks down its stats by industry. A fascinating picture began to emerge. The figures include magazines and other publications, but not the Internet.

Layoffs began rising sharply in June and have been on a steady climb since August. I predict the numbers will accelerate in 2009, based on awful year-end newspaper numbers (see posting below).

The country has been in a recession for more than a year. Newspaper advertising is tumbling rapidly, circulation continues its decline and most newspaper chains are burdened with lots of debt, which they have a decreasing ability to pay. Tribune was the first newspaper chain to file for bankruptcy, but there very likely will be others.

Of the big publishers, I'd watch McClatchy, publisher of the Miami Herald, whose Florida and California markets are hard hit. McClatchy also is struggling with $2 billion in debt. Media General, publisher of the Tampa Tribune, also is in bad shape, with the company's worth of $777 million just slightly ahead of its debt of $750 million.

Here's an industry snapshot:

Number of announced layoffs in 2008: 93
The largest number reported was 14 for the month of November, and the figure has been climbing since August, when there were 9 layoff announcements. The last time the numbers approached or surpassed 100 was in 2001 and 2002.

Publishing unemployment rate: 4.4 percent vs. 6.7 percent for all workers for November 2008. Publishing unemployment has spiked and dipped for the last several months, indicating a lot of industry volatility. It jumped to 4.6 percent in September, but went down in October to 2.7 percent, only to rise again in November.

Number of reporters: 39,230
Unfortunately, this number is for 2007, the latest available. We'll be able to calculate the hit when new numbers come out.

Number of editors: 63,930
Above rule applies.

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