Craigslist Recruitment Revenue to Jump This Year

A new report says Craigslist will bring in $65.3 million from job postings this year, an amount rivaled only by the $36.3 million take from its adult ad istings.

The report by classified advertising consultancy AIM Group says quirky Craigslist will have revenues of $122 million this year. Estimates of its costs last year, suggest that it could have a profit somewhere between $89 million and $99 million. (See note at end of article for full disclosure.)

The estimated $122 million in revenue for 201o represents a 22 percent jump over 2009. Though the bulk of the growth is expected to come from the adult ads on the site, recruitment revenue is projected to increase 10.2 percent over 2009’s $59 million in estimated recruitment revenue.

If that turns out to be the case, it would be a significant achievement considering Wall Street analysts don’t expect much improvement in recruitment advertising. Yahoo says analysts expect Monster revenues to be flat to even slightly down this year. Last year, Monster and CareerBuilder (North America only) — the two biggest job boards in the world — reported declines of 33 and 27 percent respectively. (CareerBuilder is a private company and reports only some numbers voluntarily.)

Some other job boards have told me they don’t expect to see any appreciable growth until late in the year and expect to be flat to slightly up in revenue.That makes the Craigslist projections from AIM Group all the more remarkable. The consultancy counted job postings in February, projecting them for a full year. The results suggest Craigslist is already experiencing a lift in its job postings. And since the AIM Group counts, President Obama has signed a jobs stimulus bill, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the first growth in new jobs in three years.

How we should interpret the Craigslist projections is not at all clear. On the one hand, it could be an early sign of a recovering economy. Many of the jobs on Craigslist are part-time or entry-level or temp positions. Typically, these are the harbingers of a recovery.

Another possible conclusion is that acceptance of Craigslist continues to grow as a legitimate source of candidates. That acceptance likely has been nudged along by Craigslist’s attractive pricing. While recruitment is not especially price sensitive, a $75 job posting is pretty tempting compared to the $350-$400 the big boards charge for a single job posting.

Of course, it has to produce results. The evidence says Craigslist does; otherwise, it wouldn’t see the year-over-year growth it does. In past years, it has been able to increase the number of markets where it charges for job listings. Last year it added Austin, Texas to 17 others. Now, Craigslist charges in: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Orange County, California, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego,  Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

According to the report, some of these markets have surprisingly small counts, when their size is considered. The report says, “For its size, Houston — the fourth-largest city in the U.S. — recorded a mere 5,200 jobs, flat from a year ago. Chicago saw 9,900 jobs posted in February, slightly better than 2009’s 9,400 jobs. The fewest jobs in our survey were in Sacramento (3,700) and Austin (4,300).”

That tracks with the Monster Employment Index for those cities. In February, Houston’s index stood at 104 compared to the national index of 124. Chicago was at 66, and Sacramento stood at 62. Monster does not offer a local report for Austin.

Whether Craigslist is a bell cow for hiring trends this year will become a little clearer on Thursday, when Monster Worldwide reports its first quarter 2010 financial results. CareerBuilder, which typically releases its North American numbers about the same time, may also offer further clues. On May 7th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will report on the jobs and unemployment picture for April.

Note: I participated in the AIM Group report. I did the analysis and writing of the section on Craigslist’s 2009 expenses.

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