U.S. advertising employment rebounds with gain of 3,500 jobs in February
Employment in advertising, public relations and related services rose by 3,500 jobs in February, a positive sign for agencies following a sharp drop in January.
The job gains came as U.S. employers last month added a stronger-than-expected 379,000 jobs, according to the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Digital media continued to be the ad industry’s bright spot, with internet media staffing breaking a new record.
U.S. employment in the BLS classification of advertising, public relations and related services increased to 435,300 jobs in February, a rebound from its pandemic period low of 431,800 in January.
That BLS bucket includes ad agencies, PR agencies and related services such as media buying, media reps, outdoor advertising, direct mail and other services related to advertising. Ad agencies account for the biggest portion—about 43%—of jobs in that BLS bucket.
U.S. ad agencies cut 4,800 jobs in January. That reduced staffing to 186,000, the lowest point since 2014.
BLS reports ad agency employment on a one-month lag, so February figures aren’t yet available. But the uptick in February advertising, public relations and related services staffing suggests that ad agencies were adding jobs last month.
Agencies are watching staffing levels closely. Even before the COVID-induced recession began in February 2020, ad agency employment had trended downward from the record high of 208,800 jobs reached in 2018.
Agency job cuts before and during the coronavirus pandemic aren’t a surprise. Labor is the biggest cost for agencies, and the agency business was grappling with sluggish growth even before the recession.
U.S. ad agency employment tends to peak earlier than the overall U.S. job market in the waning days of a business cycle’s economic expansion before a recession. On the flip side, agencies generally are cautious about adding employees as the economy recovers, resulting in a lag in staffing growth.
U.S. internet media employment in January increased by 1,600 jobs, reaching an all-time high of 297,400 jobs.
As with ad agencies, internet media staffing is reported with a one-month delay.
Digital media firms have prospered during the pandemic, and that has translated into solid job growth. U.S. staffing at internet media businesses rebounded quickly from a brief dip in the early stages of the pandemic last spring.
The nation in February added 379,000 jobs, the biggest gain since October.
Following an unprecedented loss of 20.7 million jobs last April as the nation locked down, the economy has added jobs every month except for December. But the total U.S. nonfarm payroll is still 9.5 million jobs below its February 2020 all-time high.
The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% in February from 6.3% in January.
The unemployment rate last April reached 14.8%, the highest level since before World War II.
Ad Age Datacenter subscribers can see an expanded table showing advertising employment back to 2000 at AdAge.com/adjobs.