For the first time since data collection began, marketers expect overall levels of employment to be lower in three months’ time, although there are hopes the government’s interventions will mitigate some of the impact.

Marketers are expecting job losses for the first time as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak is felt across the industry.

The IPA’s quarterly Bellwether report, conducted with IHS Markit, found that almost a third (31.2%) plan to reduce employment over the next three months. By comparison, 17% hope to expand hiring and 51.5% foresee no change in staffing levels.

That means a net balance of 13.9% expect to have lower levels of employment in three months’ time compared to now – the first time this has happened since the survey began collecting the data in 2016.

The figure is a steep drop from the previous quarter, when 4.9% expected employment levels to be higher, and the 2.7% figure from the same quarter last year.

“The challenging economic environment had a notable effect on employment prospects at firms on the Bellwether panel in the first quarter,” says the report. “The subsequent net balance of -13.9% signalled job losses on a scale not seen across the question’s short history.”

Marketers who expect employment levels to be higher, the same or lower in three months’ time
Higher % Same % Lower % Net +/-
2019 Q1 23.6 55.6 20.9 +2.7
Q2 22 61.2 16.8 +5.1
Q3 17.9 65.6 16.5 +1.4
Q4 22.9 59 18 +4.9
2020 Q1 17.3 51.5 31.2 -13.9

The survey was conducted between 2 March and 27 March – so as the coronavirus outbreak worsened in the UK and taking in the first few days of the lockdown (which began on 23 March). The challenging social, health and economic environment has unsurprisingly had an effect on marketers’ outlook.

Marketing Week’s own survey of marketers conducted at the start of April found that 5% of B2B and 7% of B2C marketers have experienced a change in job status. Of those, 25% of B2B marketers have been made redundant, 64% have had their jobs scaled back and 11% have seen their roles expanded.

In consumer-facing businesses, 44% have been made redundant – almost twice as high a proportion as in B2B – while 57% have had their roles scaled back and none have seen an expansion of their job.

Covid-19: B2C marketers more likely to face redundancy than B2B

Sentiment around own-company prospects moved into negative territory, reversing the marginal improvement seen at the end of last year. A net balance of -26% of marketers feel optimistic about their own company’s prospects, down sharply from the 1% who felt optimistic in the previous quarter and the lowest since the global financial crisis in 2009.

Almost half (46%) of panel members were pessimistic, compared to around 20% who still foresee growth.

Industry-wide financial prospects were also down sharply, with a net balance of -42.0% meaning far more firms have negative views rather than positive. That too is a steep decline from Q4 – when the net balance stood at -21% – and marks the weakest reading since 2011.

However, there are some positive signs. Despite the data signalling job losses, almost 70% of firms hope to either hire more staff or keep employment level unchanged. “This is a positive sign that the measures by the UK government aimed at curbing unemployment have had some success,” says the report.

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