U.S. advertising employment barely moved in May as ad staffing plateaus
Employment in advertising, public relations and related services barely budged in May, adding a scant 100 jobs.
The meager ad jobs gain came as U.S. employers in May added a solid 559,000 jobs, according to the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Digital media remained the ad industry bright spot, with internet media staffing breaking a new record.
U.S. employment in the BLS classification of advertising, public relations and related services edged up to 439,900 jobs in May, with the gain of 100 jobs providing the fourth month of growth since ad jobs hit a pandemic period low of 432,100 in January.
The increase in advertising employment last month came in far below April’s downwardly revised gain of 1,800 ad jobs.
This 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 added 900 jobs in April, a good showing following a gain of 200 jobs in March.
BLS reports ad agency employment on a one-month lag, so May figures aren’t yet available. But sluggishness in May advertising, public relations and related services staffing suggests weakness in ad agency employment 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 April rose by 2,300 jobs, reaching an all-time high of 303,600 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 May added 559,000 jobs, somewhat below expectations. The economy added an upwardly revised 278,000 jobs in April and an upwardly revised 785,000 jobs in March.
Following an unprecedented loss of 20.7 million jobs in April 2020 as the nation locked down, the economy has added jobs every month except for December. But the total U.S. nonfarm payroll is still 7.6 million jobs below its February 2020 all-time high.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.8% in May from 6.1% in April.
The unemployment rate in February 2020 stood at 3.5%. In April 2020, it 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.