Media Job Cuts for First Half Rise Amid AOL-Huffington Post Deal


NEW YORK - Announced job cuts by U.S. companies in the TV and film industries and other media sectors rose to 4,085 during the first half of 2011 from 3,578 in the year-ago period, according to outsourcing consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

But the pace of layoffs was down from 18,081 for the first six months of 2009, the 13,706 cut in the opening half of 2008 and the 8,891 layoffs in the first half of 2007.

Challenger's media industry figures include the broadcast and music industries, as well as movie studios, but also and newspaper firms, among others.

What drove the 14 percent increase in announced job cuts year-to-date compared to the first half of 2010? A spokesman for Challenger cited the 900 layoffs announced after the AOL-Huffington Post merger as the biggest job cuts announcement so far followed by 700 at Gannett. 

Some studios have also recently announced select staff reductions, particularly in their home entertainment divisions. Among others, Warner Bros. recently laid off 50 employees in its home entertainment and consumer products units, affecting about 1 percent of the studio's U.S. workforce. Similarly, Fox Home Entertainment recently laid off a dozen employees and 10 staffers in the studio’s IT department. And Lionsgate has also cut 10 home entertainment staffers.

For all of 2010, media employers announced 4,889 job cuts, compared with 22,346 in 2009, 28,083 in 2008 and 11,700 in 2007, according to Challenger.

"Job cuts have picked up from last year, but still remain relatively low compared to recent years," a Challenger spokesman said. Will job cuts will be higher this year than in 2010, "we don’t expect a second-half surge in media cuts that would propel them to 2009 levels."

Meanwhile, the company's entertainment/leisure category, which includes movie theaters and theme parks, but also hotels and restaurants and the like, 23,390 people were cut in 2010, up from 15,280 in 2009. Challenger said Wednesday that during the first six months of 2011, the category lost 9,432 staffers, up 13 percent from the 8,316 in the year-ago period and higher than the first half of all years going back at least to 2007.

The overall number of announced job cuts across U.S. industries during the first half of 2011 is the lowest since 2000, according the latest Challenger report. The announced 245,806 planned job cuts are 17.4 percent below the 297,677 layoffs announced during the first half of 2010.

The top five sectors in terms of announced layoffs are government/non-profit, retail, aerospace/defense, financial services and industrial goods.

“The employment picture remains a bit cloudy," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a statement. "Hiring is coming in spurts and is not quite robust enough to make a significant dent in unemployment."

 Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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