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Semper Finds Mixed Indicators in Its Latest Industry Insight Survey

November 2, 2010
BOSTON—Nov. 2, 2010—Semper International, a leading placement firm for skilled help in the graphic arts and printing industry, reported there are still mixed signals about the state of the printing business based on the results of its most recent Industry Insight quarterly survey.

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.

“They warned us things would be a little bumpy,” commented Dave Regan, CEO Semper International. “This election season has certainly put a negative spin on just about everything. The pundits and the Fed warned us that things would be improving, but it would be up and down. It seems clear that we have seen several soft spots the last few months. While annoying, they are definitely surrounded by some busy spells. Overall, this fall has been decidedly better then a year ago and certainly better than the spring.”

The most recent survey indicates a mixed bag of business trends:

• About 60% of companies surveyed reported a profitable Q3. While down quarter to quarter, it was stronger than a year ago.

• Looking at the first two weeks of Q4, current sales indicate a strong increase—although this could be a seasonal trend. The number of companies reporting a decrease in sales dropped from 35% to 24%, with those reporting increased sales taking a corresponding gain.

• About 80% of the companies interviewed expected even or increased sales during Q1, 2011.

• The vast majority of respondents indicated that hiring levels remained the same, although there was a slight increase in companies hiring—and a noticeable trend that they were releasing less employees.

• 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.

• The greatest competitive threat to printers is seen as technology (48%), far exceeding supply costs (24%) and labor costs (19%).

• Print buyers place the greatest pricing pressure on offset printing (55%) and digital printing costs (20%), where there is clearly a lot of excess capacity, it is the largest component of job cost, and where print providers fight for market share.

• While referrals (31%) and online searches (25%) seem to be the most popular ways to find employees, there was a jump in reliance on flex hiring (16%). In uncertain times 'try before you hire' still makes a lot of sense.
 

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