What’s the Unemployment Rate in Prepress

by admin on July 4, 2009

Unemployment rate in the US moved up to 9.5% in June. It's also 9.5% in the Euro-zone.

Okay, okay, so what is the unemployment rate for us prepress folk? You know, the geeks with high technical skills in Mac, Windows, knowledge of Adobe Creative suite, networking (not that you need to be brain surgeon to do that nowadays) and maybe even a color theory and imposition knowledge?

Well, I dug up some interesting stats for US employment of prepress workers here, but it's from May 2008. Now, it tells us that Wisconsin is a big employer of prepress (makes sense, as Quad is based out of Wisconsin). From May 2008 to May 2009 the unemployment rate in Wisconsin  shot up from 4.4%  to 8.9%. You have to think that non-governmental workers (i.e. people like prepress specialists) are heavily weighted in the layoffs.

I found another  info page on prepress employment data from the Australian government. Interestingly, the number of jobs in prepress has shrunk from 11300 (1996) to 5600 (2008). They must get huge competition from Asian countries.

Nothing really recent and specific to prepress. My gut feeling is that the decline in employment for prepress workers has accelerated in North America, Europe, and Australia and possibly held steady in the Asian countries especially China. Back in the early 2000s China made HUGE purchases of CTP and modern workflow products, and the cost of workers there is so cheap, why bother laying them off?

So let's see, the last reliable numbers on employment prepress were as follows: 65000 in US and 5300 in Australia. That was before the economic crisis really hit. Let's say Canada has 6000 prepress workers. That's really interesting, that is roughly equivalent to the number of people employed by GM and Chrysler in North America. And I would say the business struggles of the automobile industry and the commercial print industry are very similar.

Unemployment rate for prepress 25%+. Yeah, I can't prove it: But what's a blog for, if not to make unproven assertions?


FubarGuy July 7, 2009 at 6:43 am

Well, if you don’t mind anecdotal data it’s damned ugly in this area. Baltimore/DC Metro roughly. I’ve recently started following the Twitter feed from printworkers.com and most of the listings there are out West. And of the few prepress listings I’ve seen, even those are Flex. It ain’t pretty, and even when things start to pick up again, I’ve got a pretty good suspicion that employers will be used to getting by with skeleton staffing and just cracking the whip harder. Time to get an Apple Cert & go be IT support? Could be.

GeorgeK July 15, 2009 at 10:28 am

I have seen many companies not purchasing new equipment. They seem to be spending little just to keep their old equipment working. No new money is being spent for new equipment. This is coming from a person who spent 30 years in the field and now is looking for new work. More cut backs will come to the prepress industry if things do not change soon.

Cameron Williams October 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm

The entire graphics industry has changed. Most jobs are being filled by students who work as “interns”, and those highly-skilled workers over 50 (at least in New York City) will never again be employed—not even at reduced rates. Employers now want people who know Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, QuarkXPress, HTML, XML, Flash, Dreamweaver, Office, and more, and they expect to get this for $12.00/hour, tops.

Of course, that’s not possible, so they settle for employees with substandard skills sets, then rely on the service providers to fix the work, and the only service providers who can afford to do this are the ones with low-paid workers. It’s a race to the bottom, plain and simple.

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