[Downsizing: Company employment, 1994-2008]
Following another series of deep job cuts, Gannett likely starts the year with the fewest employees since 1997, according to recent remarks by company executives and a new review of public documents filed with federal regulators.
The outlook for 2010 employment, on the other hand, looks better compared to a year ago, amid rosier advertising forecasts as the economy emerges from the deepest recession in decades. But the strength and path of that recovery is a key factor, leading blogger Alan Mutter said in a new post last week.
A robust economy could boost ad buying among retailers, car dealers, employers and real estate agents. "It does not follow, however," Mutter cautions, "that advertisers will return to their former behavior. After being forced to do more marketing with less money during the worst economy since the 1930s, advertisers in every key newspaper and broadcast category have learned to become increasingly proficient at low-cost, highly-targetable, meticulously-measurable interactive advertising."
What's more, Wells Fargo securities analyst John Janedis predicted newspaper advertising overall would show a high single-digit-percentage decline this year from 2009, The Wall Street Journal notes today. The WSJ story continues: "Gannett executives said at a recent investor conference that total classified-ad revenue at the company's newspapers in the fourth quarter would be down 20% from a year earlier, rebounding somewhat from a year-to-year drop of 36% in the third quarter and a roughly 40% decline in the first half of 2009."
As always, Gannett is taking a conservative approach on the job front. Starting this month, Corporate is imposing a third round of furloughs in the U.S. newspaper division and some other units, through the first quarter. Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore hasn't ruled out more furloughs in the second quarter. Moreover, last month's furlough memo from newspaper division chief Bob Dickey (left) didn't indicate whether the unpaid time off would reduce the likelihood of layoffs and other job cuts in the near future. Last year, after all, Corporate slashed more than 1,600 U.S. newspaper jobs through layoffs in the spring and early July, despite the first two sets of furloughs.
Gannett's newest total workforce number is due in the next annual report, expected at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by early March. In advance of that report, it's possible to ballpark the number. Martore told Wall Street media stock analysts last month that GCI's workforce would be down in the "high single digits" in 2010 vs. last year in the print publishing part of the business. That estimate already included those more than 1,600 layoffs and other job reductions.
Workforce size: the big number
Print, largely comprising the U.S. and U.K. newspapers, is the vast majority of Gannett's employment. It totaled about 36,000 jobs a year ago, according to S.E.C. filings. Assuming Martore's high single-digits equaled, say, 8%, then print-related employment fell by about 2,900 jobs last year. That would mean Gannett's workforce now totals less than 39,000 vs. 41,500 a year ago. (See chart, above.)
But to fully understand how much GCI's employment has plummeted, consider that it peaked at 53,400 at the end of 2000, after the workforce swelled with the purchase of The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star and other businesses. Amid layoffs and other cuts, that's a loss of one out of every four Gannett jobs during the past decade.
Related: Corporate's summary statement for last month's UBS media stock analysts conference in New York. Plus: Martore's remarks during the question-and-answer session
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[Image: yesterday's Arizona Republic, Newseum]