Media-Sector Hiring Rebounded Last Year. 2022 May Not Be So Lucky

Media-Sector Hiring Rebounded Last Year. 2022
Yinchen Niu/VIP+

After 2020, the worst year on record for media job cuts, hiring by U.S. employers rebounded significantly in 2021. However, even as more people returned to work in the media industry last year, the group faces new and existing challenges in 2022. 

Nobody could have predicted the devastation the COVID-19 pandemic would unleash on the economy in 2020. U.S.-based companies cut a record amount of 2.3 million jobs during the year as uncertainty crippled the nation.  

But optimism picked up dramatically in 2021 as vaccines entered the market, and it appeared as if the worst of the pandemic was in the rearview mirror. According to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, U.S. employers slashed only about 322,000 jobs in 2021, which was the lowest level since the firm began tracking in 1993. 

The media industry took part in the hiring recovery last year, too. Hiring recouped some losses as film and television production returned, theme parks reopened their doors and employers allowed employees to voluntarily return to offices. As a result, the media industry saw an 87% decline in job-cut announcements in 2021. Last year’s total was the lowest since the firm began tracking the industry in 2003. 

Despite the recovery, some existing challenges persist, and impending new challenges have emerged to threaten media industry jobs in 2022. For one, the pandemic continues to cause high levels of uncertainty. If the omicron variant’s impact on corporations and the economy persists, production may be halted again, and theme parks could see an impact on their operations as more staff fall sick. Just earlier this week, Hong Kong Disneyland announced its fourth COVID-related closure.  

If those reductions in operations worsen, employers may ultimately decide to further cut costs. That would spell trouble for those looking to hold onto their jobs. 

Another major threat to media jobs in 2022 will come as a result of cost-cutting following M&A deals. The biggest deal that is expected to close by mid-2022 is the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. Layoffs following a big deal are par for the course; reorganization and restructuring invariably lead to overlap in various positions. 

AT&T previously stated in a press release that it would be creating at least $3 billion in cost synergies annually. Though those are a familiar part of M&A, the phrase is just a euphemism for cost reductions, which typically result in layoffs. WarnerMedia and Discovery create different kinds of content and thus editorial and creative positions would likely remain intact; however, other jobs including human resources, legal, accounting and IT, are likely to see cuts.  

AT&T CEO John Stankey was grilled about possible layoffs in a companywide town hall shortly after the deal announcement in mid-May. Stankey attempted to reassure employees, but if history is any indication, the last time there was a big M&A deal, AT&T laid off thousands of workers after its acquisition of Time Warner threw the telecom giant hundreds of billions of dollars into debt. 

And yet as bad as that sounds, the media industry is resilient, and new ventures also bring new opportunities. Just this week, Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith announced he was leaving the company to start an ambitious global news service with New York Times columnist Ben Smith, though it’s unclear when they will launch or even begin to hire.  

The good news is that U.S. employers as a whole have recently been having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill open roles. As of the end of November, job openings in the U.S. totaled 10.6 million and remain at historical highs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

2020 was a year of unprecedented hardship, and 2021 was a year of hope and optimism. While many are fearful of having inflated expectations as we kick off the new year, hard times are often followed by better times.