Marketing and advertising sectors have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn, according to the latest Clarius Skills Index.

The Skills Index estimates for the March quarter of 2009, there are approximately 3,500 unemployed sales, marketing and advertising professionals, compared to an estimated 720 unfilled positions for these professionals.

It also estimates that the number of unfilled positions fell from approximately 990 in the December quarter 2008, but is actually slightly higher than it was a year ago (660 in the March quarter 2008).

At the same time, the number of unemployed sales, marketing and advertising professionals has grown, up from approximately 2,000 in the December quarter 2008.

“There’s a considerable impact on the marketing, advertising and sales sectors. This quarter’s results would suggest that it is among the hardest hit of all sectors. Within this category, some industries are coping better than others – for example FMCG, particularly food related, are relatively insulated where the finance sector is suffering considerably,” explained Kym Quick, executive general manager for Lloyd Morgan.

A score of 100 in the Clarius Skills Index indicates equal tension between labour supply and demand.

Anything greater than 105 on the skills shortage side of the Index is regarded as extreme shortage, with the current level for sales, marketing and advertising professionals at 97.9 – the lowest reading for this occupation since the September quarter 2004.

“Organisations are starting to increase activity in hiring in response to two underlying issues. Firstly and most frequently, roles put ‘on-hold’ at the start of the downturn are being sourced, due to internal pressure being felt through long term vacancy,” said Quick.

“The challenge here for companies is getting the balance between cutting costs at the risk of future growth right.”