It's ugly out there in ad and tech land, but there seems to be a faint light shimmering at the end of a long tunnel. The recession has so far forced Yahoo! and Microsoft to lay off thousands; Oracle, Intel, Cisco and others are adjusting to the recession as well. Even the eight hundred pound gorilla Google has pared away at least 200 jobs in sales/marketing and several thousand part-time contractor jobs.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that the number of tech-sector job cuts in the first quarter was 84,217--the biggest since the fourth quarter of 2002 when 133,511 jobs were slashed.

In addition to laying off workers, companies such as Yahoo! have instituted salary freezes and suspended contributions to 401(k) plans.

How long is the tunnel we need to travel through before we turn the corner? Tech job cuts aren't expected to be nearly as deep as they were during the dot-com bust. According to Challenger, nearly 1.2 million jobs were lost in 2001 and 2002. This compares with about 240,000 cuts total in 2008 and first-quarter 2009.

As for ad agencies, the peak of employment occurred in August 2000 with 207,400 employed (about four months before the dot-com bubble peaked). Job losses amounted to 43,200 or 21% of the workforce by January 2004 and didn’t bounce back until October 2007 when employment reached 188,600. The net loss, or adjustment, of 18,800 jobs during the period can, in part, be attributed to more efficient productivity, technology improvements and attrition offset partially by growth in the sector. One year later, October 2008, the industry posted employment levels of 182,400 …. a loss of 6,200 jobs (3.4%) for the twelve month period.

The good news: While the market is do doubt spiraling downward, it is NOT expected that the cuts will be as deep as they were when the bubble burst in 2000-01 and that a recovery will not be as protracted.

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