Business Growth Continues to Fuel Demand for Accountants

Chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed for the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index expect a net 5 percent increase in the hiring of accounting professionals in the first quarter of 2005, down one point from the previous quarter's forecast but three points above projections made this time last year. Nine percent of executives polled plan to add staff, and 4 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. Eighty-six percent of respondents foresee no change in staff levels.

The national poll includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half International Inc.

"While still conservative, the hiring outlook is stronger than it was one year ago," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "In addition to seeking accounting and finance staff to assist with internal audit and corporate governance requirements, companies are also looking for professionals to support future business expansion."

Sixty-five percent of executives who plan to hire during the first three months of 2005 cited business growth as the primary driver, up seven points from the fourth-quarter 2004 survey.

Messmer added, "As the need for skilled accounting professionals continues to grow, companies are beginning to place more emphasis on recruiting top candidates, particularly for in-demand specialties such as internal audit and financial analysis."

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Region

CFOs in the West South Central(1) region forecast the greatest hiring activity during the first quarter, with a net 9 percent planning to add full-time accounting and finance employees. Twelve percent of executives from this region of the United States expect to hire, and 3 percent anticipate personnel cutbacks.

"Both publicly traded and private companies in the West South Central states report demand for professionals with CPA designations and public accounting experience," Messmer said. "Demand is especially strong in the energy and healthcare sectors."

Hiring in the West North Central(2) and Mountain(3) states is also projected to be above the national average, with a net 8 percent and 7 percent of CFOs, respectively, expecting to bring in accounting and finance staff during the first quarter. A net 6 percent of executives in the South Atlantic(4) and East South Central(5) regions of the country plan to add full-time staff in the coming months.

Robert Half International has conducted additional interviews in select metro areas to provide more detailed analysis on financial hiring trends in these cities. The local results are available at www.roberthalf.com/PressRoom.

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