“The more people are working, the more that can purchase goods and services (and pay mortgages), creating a positive feedback loop and faster, sustained growth,” says Dave Regan, CEO of Semper. “Watch for some negative news about the slowdown at the end of 2010 coupled with the recent GDP contractions in the UK and Japan, that may cause some concern in a few weeks. Positive news is critical at this time to help build economic momentum.”
The survey covers the printing industry as a whole in the US. The most recent survey indicates more positive business trends:
• 73 percent of companies surveyed reported a profitable Q4. This represents an increase of nearly 13 percentage points over last quarter.
• Looking at the first two weeks of Q1, current sales are stagnant over last quarter, likely an indication of the traditional January slow-down. The number of companies reporting a decrease in sales or no change remained approximately the same over last quarter.
• A mere 12.5 percent of the companies interviewed expected sales to decrease through the remainder of Q1, 2011. Last quarter nearly 20 percent expected a sales decrease.
• The vast majority of respondents indicated that hiring levels will remained the same or increase. There was a marked increase in companies hiring.
• More than two-thirds of companies reported that healthcare is the labor cost component that increased the fastest last quarter – nearly five times greater than those reporting base pay, the next component. Companies are taking steps to control costs, but healthcare has remained the fastest growing component of cost for the last four quarters.
• The greatest competitive threat to printers remains largely unchanged from last quarter. Technology (48 percent) – the fear of what competititors are doing and how a company may need to respond – is the biggest threat, far exceeding supply costs (26 percent) and labor costs (19 percent).
• Print buyers place the greatest pricing pressure on offset printing (47 percent) but the pressure has eased somewhat from last quarter. Material cost pressures jumped 4 percentage points. Digital printing costs (23 percent), where there is clearly a lot of excess capacity, is the largest component of job cost, and where print providers fight for market share.
• Referrals (37 percent) and online searches (33 percent) seem to be the most popular ways to find employees.These methods continue to put pressure on traditional help-wanted advertising, which continued its downward trend, dropping another 4 percentage points.
Semper International is a temporary help placement firm founded and staffed by professionals who were raised and trained in the printing and graphic arts industry. Since February 2003, Semper International has provided a quarterly survey offering estimates of trends in the printing and graphics industries. Survey participants include more than 300 small, medium and large printing companies; both clients and prospects of Semper International. Participants provide data on revenue and hiring as well as estimated outlooks on future trends. Data is requested from a random sample and are not screened. To preserve confidentiality, individual company information is not part of the tabulation.