Top 5 slim down

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The world's five top ad organizations lost an estimated 4.7% of their collective U.S. work force through the first three quarters of this year, falling to 65,564 from 68,786 at yearend 2002, according to data pieced together by Ad Age. That's on top of a 9.4% drop in their U.S. employee count at yearend 2002 from 2001.

The decline placed head counts of the five at 15.3% of the 427,800 employed in advertising and related services through September, down from 15.6% the end of 2002, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' ad sector data (see chart below). The five declined an estimated 5.4% in worldwide employment in the same period.

Lower compensation/operating expense ratios by about two percentage points also were recorded by Interpublic Group of Cos. (61% for three quarters), Havas (64.8% for two quarters) and WPP Group (65.5% for two), meaning they were most likely incurring a net gain in the exchange of one-time severance costs for fewer salaries.

The BLS' September reading was the lowest point for advertising and related services since February 1997. The high point was 504,000 in October and November of 2000, prelude to the dot-com bust.