Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Surveys Say: 4th Quarter Looking Good

Deloitte employees may be getting laid off but everyone else’s holiday bonus is probably safe because demand for accounting and finance employment is holding steady at worst and may even rise during the last quarter.

That’s the latest word from two employer surveys out this week, Robert Half International’s Quarterly Financial Hiring Index and Manpower’s Employment Outlook Survey. Both ask respondents about their hiring plans for the fourth quarter of 2008.

RHI’s data, which is compiled from telephone interviews with 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs), asks specifically about finance and accounting positions. A whopping 85 percent of the CFOs said they plan to stand pat and not hire or fire anyone, 10 percent plan to increase staff and 5 percent are going to be making cuts in the 4th quarter.

More specifically, RHI’s survey says:
Forty-four percent of CFOs who expect to hire in the fourth quarter cited business growth as the reason for the increased need for additional staff. Forty-one percent reported rising workloads as the primary driver.

Twenty-eight percent of executives interviewed cited accounting positions as the most challenging to fill. Twenty-two percent of respondents pointed to operational-support roles, such as those in accounts payable and collections, as the most difficult to staff.

The most active hiring is expected to take place among firms with 20 to 49 employees, where a net 6 percent of CFOs project adding staff. Eleven percent of executives plan to hire full-time financial professionals and 5 percent anticipate decreasing personnel levels.
Manpower, meanwhile, puts finance, insurance and real estate together in a single category. Despite the downturn in real estate, about two-thirds of the 14,000 surveyed employers said they planned no changes in their hiring, while 15 percent planned increases and 12 percent planned decreases in hiring, which nets out to a 5 percent increase when the numbers are seasonally adjusted.

That sounds great on the surface, but actually, it’s a slight dip from the previous quarter, and considerably lower than the sector’s 2005 peak of 25%. “This is the weakest employment outlook for the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate sector since Quarter 2, 1992,” Manpower’s survey reports. That early 1992 housing market had a lot in common with today’s market, including a foreclosure crisis, a savings and loan crisis and tons of bad assets being unloaded.

The two surveys also project which regions will offer the best job markets. Manpower says the strongest job prospects are found in the West and the weakest are in the South.

RHI says New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont ) and the East South Central states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) will see the greatest gains in hiring.

“Growth in the manufacturing sector in the East South Central states is among the trends driving the need for additional financial staff, particularly midlevel accounting professionals,” says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "In the New England region, financial analysts are needed to help firms identify further operating efficiencies.”

So how does all this jibe with Deloitte layoffs, plus earlier layoffs at other Big 4 firms? “It’s hard to draw any conclusions that apply to the industry as a whole,” says Jon Zion, RHI's president of eastern operations . “We have yet to see a broader trend of personnel reductions and, in fact, continue to see hiring activity in public accounting. Many firms even report hiring difficulties due to a shortage of skilled professionals.”

Want to check your local RHI results? Head to

No comments: