Financial hiring forecast more positive for fourth quarter

Hiring in accounting and finance is expected to increase in the final months of 2008, according to executives interviewed for the most recent Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index. Ten percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed said they plan to expand the size of their teams in the fourth quarter, while 5 percent anticipate personnel reductions. The net 5 percent increase is up five points from the third-quarter projection.

The Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CFOs across the United States. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half International, the world's first and largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance. Robert Half has been tracking financial hiring activity in the United States since 1992.

"Businesses need a strong financial function to see them through all economic cycles," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "This has created ongoing demand for accounting and finance staff with specialized abilities and expertise. In particular, firms seek staff and senior accountants, financial analysts, and internal auditors."

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.

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Region

The East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) and New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) states should see the greatest gains in hiring during the fourth quarter. A net 7 percent of CFOs in each region anticipate adding full-time accounting and finance professionals.

"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," Messmer said. "In the New England region, financial analysts are needed to help firms identify further operating efficiencies."

Robert Half commissioned additional interviews with CFOs in more than 40 major metropolitan areas to provide snapshots of financial hiring trends in these markets.

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Industry

Among industries, executives in wholesale are most optimistic about hiring. Thirteen percent of CFOs anticipate adding accounting and finance employees in the fourth quarter, while 1 percent foresee a reduction in personnel, a net 12 percent increase.

The manufacturing sector also is forecast to see hiring gains exceeding the national average, with a net 11 percent of executives expecting to expand their staff levels during the final three months of the year. In both the transportation and finance, insurance and real estate industries, a net 8 percent of CFOs plan to add personnel in the quarter.

About the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index

First published in 1992, the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that businesses from all segments were represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and employee size. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportions of employee size within each region.

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