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Despite Signs of Recession Bottoming Out, NAPL Finds Industry Sales Continue to Nosedive

June 2009
PARAMUS, NJ—June 3, 2009—Although the latest NAPL Printing Business Conditions release reports seeing signs the recession may finally be reaching its lowest point, it also reveals that the commercial printing industry is continuing to experience a deep slide in sales—the steepest, in fact, for any three months in the more than 20 years NAPL has tracked the industry—and offers little hope for a meaningful industry rebound in 2009, predicting a decline in industry sales of a record 8%-12% this year.
 
“What started over a year ago as a moderate contraction has turned into an unprecedented plunge that has cast a wide net: More than nine in 10 NAPL Printing Business Panel members report that their sales fell last quarter, with 71.1% reporting a decline of at least 10% and 42% a decline of at least 20%,” notes the report issued yesterday by NAPL’s Printing Economic Research Center (PERC).
 
Noting that while these sales data are “disturbing and should be cause for much concern,” the report states that other key NAPL business indicators “suggest that the first quarter may represent the low point in the industry’s recession.” It points out, for example, that about one-fifth of companies surveyed report that business improved in April, up significantly from 8.7% in March, while less than half (49.2%) report business slowed, down from 74.7% in March—the first time both indicators have moved in these directions since September 2007.
 
Among its other findings:
 
• More than twice as many NAPL Printing Business Panel members reported seeing some encouraging signs—no matter how minor—now than they did in March and reports of such positive signs have increased significantly in every geographic region.
 
• Improvement is not across the board—pre-tax profitability fell in April for 70.7% of the panel—just below the record high recorded in March, and just 4.2% of the companies surveyed increased factory payroll hours in April, down from 17.3% a year earlier.
 
NAPL’s economists expect an economic recovery to begin after mid-year and to continue strengthening through 2010 with progress “painfully slow,” and even when the recovery begins, not everyone will benefit from it because structural change is redefining the industry. “Understanding the difference between structural and cyclical change and how to address each is critical in preparing for a recovery that will leave the unprepared behind.”
 

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