Planned new hires of accounting and finance professionals has reached its highest level in two years, according to a new jobs outlook from staffing firm Brilliant.
Brilliant, in conjunction with Richard Curtin, PhD, director, surveys of consumers, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, surveyed nearly 300 human resources professionals and hiring managers for its Q4 2016 Accounting, Finance, and IT Hiring Forecast, which was released on Sept. 8.
Among all businesses surveyed, 25 percent planned to increase hiring of accountants and other finance professionals, up from 17 percent last quarter and 20 percent this time last year. This marked the highest level of hiring plans seen since the 28 percent reported in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Planned declines in hiring fell to a two-year low of just 4 percent.
Why the spike in hiring? The study found that one-third of businesses reported unfilled positions in accounting, finance, and IT.
“The overall strength in hiring plans indicates that businesses expect continued growth in nationwide employment during the year ahead,” the study states.
For accounting and finance positions, 34 percent of survey respondents reported one or more openings, nearly the same as the 35 percent reported in the third quarter, but below the 42 percent reported this time last year.
Overall, 23 percent of all companies had one to three unfilled accounting and finance positions, while 4 percent had 10 or more unfilled positions – each down 4 percentage points since the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the study.
The accounting and finance positions that need to be filled the most fall under corporate accounting (19 percent), such as financial analysts, tax accountants, general accountants, and internal auditors. However, the need for corporate accounting was down from last quarter’s 25 percent and 26 percent from this time last year, the study states.
Positions in operational support, such as billing, bookkeeping, and collections, were reported unfilled by 13 percent of respondents, up from 8 percent last quarter and equal to the same time last year.
These vacant positions in accounting and finance need to be filled as soon as possible, according to 85 percent of the hiring managers surveyed.
“This suggests that businesses have more of an immediate need for these positions due to an increasing level of current business activity,” the study states. “These more immediate needs may also be due to heightened labor turnover – as employees feel more secure and thus more willing to change positions to seek higher wages, better benefits, or better working conditions elsewhere.”
What about temporary workers? Well, 34 percent of survey respondents say they employ these professionals for accounting and finance, but that is down from a peak of 48 percent reported in the fourth quarter of 2014. That decline represents “the most significant shift in hiring practices,” according to the study.
“The shift reflects a significant underlying change in business prospects for the companies, as well as a significant shift in prospects for employees,” the study states. “Tightening labor markets go through different stages; the initial shift is from temporary/contract positions to full-time permanent positions, and subsequently attracting qualified professionals by enhanced benefits and higher wages. That first stage appears to be now largely finished.”
One last nugget: When asked to identify the biggest gap in the skills of job candidates for accounting and finance, survey respondents indicated problem solving (28 percent) was the most frequent, followed by cultural fit (24 percent) and expertise (20 percent).