If you had a dollar for every story on the economic downturn or rising unemployment rate over the last 12 months you’d be sitting pretty. No country or industry has been immune and job cuts have been a reality for both blue and white-collar workers. In Australia, the marketing profession has experienced its fair share of redundancies over the last year, with heavy cuts in sectors like financial services.

We conducted an employment survey in June which showed 62% of marketing managers had lost staff over the last six months. Only 13% added staff during the same period. It’s a survey we release every year and these results are the worst on record.

It has been a tough 12 months for job seekers, but we are finally seeing positivity returning to the market. The decline in hiring activity slowed through the second quarter and conditions have stabilised. Employers are starting to think about their staffing needs again. They’re planning for the future again. This wasn’t happening 12 months ago because business leaders felt the market had further to fall – they weren’t prepared to consider hiring again until they felt conditions had hit bottom.

In terms of business confidence, 62% of our survey respondents feel business conditions will improve by the end of 2009 and 54% do not think their staffing numbers will be reduced further. These results suggest that the white-collar employment market has stabilised and will remain consistent for the second half of the year. Most of the job cuts have already been made and those who have retained their positions are less likely to lose them.

Having said that, we shouldn’t confuse stabilisation with jobs growth. Only 9% of respondents expect staff numbers to increase any time soon. Employment tends to be a lagging indicator coming out of a downturn and companies only hire again after a period of sustained improvement in consumer and business confidence. We’re not there yet.

As a marketer you should feel more confident about the second half of 2009. There will be more consistency in the volume of full-time positions on offer, although most will be replacement hires rather than new jobs. The contract market is the one to watch because employers will use this approach in the early stages of the upturn. Contracts are worth considering as a way to get your foot in the door with leading employers in the current market. If conditions continue to improve, a six or 12 month contract may well be offered to you as a full time position in 2010.