Job Hunting

Help Wanted? No, Say CFOs

Study finds finance department hiring prospects gloomy; CFOs out West less gloomy.
Stephen TaubMay 29, 2002

The job market for accounting and finance professionals is not expected to improve in the near future. This, according to a recent survey of chief financial officers.

Third quarter hiring plans will remain little changed from the second quarter of this year, according to the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index.

Of the CFOs surveyed, only 8 percent plan to expand their accounting and finance departments. What’s more, 5 percent expect staff reductions. The net 3 percent increase is down one percentage point from the second-quarter forecast.

The majority of respondents — 84 percent –anticipate no change in hiring.

The national poll includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

“While continued economic recovery is widely expected, many executives are waiting for evidence of further business growth before making substantial increases in hiring,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “Those firms that are adding accounting and finance staff are taking a very strategic and cautious approach,” he added.

Which areas are in strongest demand? Experienced accounts receivable and credit and collections personnel. Obviously, those are symptoms of a struggling economy.

CFOs in the Pacific states are most optimistic about employment activity in the third quarter. Ten percent of financial executives expect to add staff and 2 percent foresee personnel reductions, for a net hiring increase of 8 percent.

That number seems to jibe with a recent ranking of the best U.S. cities for business. In that list, put out annually by Forbes and the Milken Institute, not a single East Coast or Midwest city cracked the top ten. In fact, the top 15 cities in the Forbes/Milken Institute survey are located west of the Mississippi. At the top of the list: San Diego. (To see the ranking, click here.)

“This area of the country benefits from a diverse economy,” Half’s Messmer said of the Pacific region. “While the technology sector has seen slowdowns, other industries such as health care, real estate, defense and biotechnology are driving growth. Accounting and finance professionals with experience in these fields are in particularly strong demand.”

The Mountain and East South Central regions also project net hiring gains above the national average. CFOs in each region foresee a net 5 percent hiring increase in the third quarter.

Looking at the breakdown by industry, financial executives in the construction industry projected the highest net increase in hiring for the third quarter.

The finance, insurance, and real estate sector, which had the strongest forecast in the last quarter’s survey, was also stronger than the national average in the latest Half survey.