Help wanted: Ad agencies are adding jobs

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Credit: Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annual average U.S. employment for ad agencies; 2018 is average for first seven months. Expanded data: AdAge.com/adjobs.

What talent crunch? Ad agency employment surged to its highest level since 2000, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The uptick signals at least a short-term turnaround from a sluggish period of employment: Agencies actually cut jobs each month from September 2017 through January 2018 and then did only limited hiring from February through May.

Agencies had been on the sidelines this year while the nation's overall employment continued to hit records, with the U.S. unemployment rate in August holding at a low 3.9 percent.

U.S. ad agency employment reached 204,100 jobs in July, according to BLS data released Sept. 7. That's the highest point since December 2000 and not far from the all-time high (207,400) hit in August 2000 amid the dot-com ad-spending bubble. (During the period around the 2007-2009 Great Recession, agency employment slumped to just 160,600 jobs.)

While ad agency staffing has picked up, traditional media employment remains weak. TV, radio and magazine employment fell in July, and newspaper employment continues its downward spiral.

Digital media employment keeps growing. Internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals in July reached an all-time high of 232,300 jobs, adding 7,500 jobs from the year-end 2017 level. Digital media employment has doubled since 2011.

See expanded ad jobs data at our own digital hub: AdAge.com/adjobs (Ad Age Datacenter subscription required.)

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