Survey Shows Hiring Plans Rising for Accountants, Other Professionals

Twelve percent of CFOs interviewed for the quarterly Robert Half Professional Employment Report said they planned to hire professional-level accounting and finance staff in the fourth quarter of 2011, while 7% foresaw cutbacks.

CFOs were increasingly optimistic about the hiring outlook, according to the report. The net 5% of financial executives who planned to increase accounting and finance staff in the fourth quarter of 2011 was up four points from the previous quarter’s forecast and the highest projected increase in three years. Positions in top demand included financial analysts, business systems analysts, and staff and senior accountants.

Also promising, according to the report: 91% of financial executives expressed at least some confidence in their companies’ business prospects for the final three months of the year.

CFOs reported greater challenges finding skilled financial professionals. In the third-quarter report, 41% of CFOs said it was at least somewhat difficult, but the number jumped to 59% in the fourth-quarter survey.

For all industries, 12% of executives interviewed for the report said they were planning to hire professional-level staff in the fourth quarter of 2011, while 5% foresaw cutbacks. The resulting net 7% increase in hiring activity is up four points from the third-quarter forecast. The portion (82%) of hiring executives saying they anticipated no change in staff levels was down from 90% three months ago.

Fourth-quarter hiring projections were higher than the third-quarter forecast in nearly all professional segments.

Other trends in the latest report:

  • The legal and marketing fields expected to see the strongest hiring activity, with a net 24% of lawyers and a net 20% of marketing and advertising executives planning to increase staff levels.
  • Businesses in the East North Central states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) projected the most active hiring, with a net 13% of executives planning to add professional-level staff in the fourth quarter.
  • Executives in the finance, insurance and real estate industry expected the most active hiring of professional-level staff, with a net 12% of hiring authorities planning to increase personnel levels.
  • Forty-six percent of all executives said they were “very confident” in their organizations’ ability to grow in the fourth quarter, and an equal number said they were “somewhat confident.”

“Businesses are focusing their full-time hiring efforts on positions that create efficiencies as well as those that support and guide growth,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, in a news release. “Professional-level candidates enjoy an advantage in today’s job market, reflected by an unemployment rate for college-educated workers that is roughly one-half that of the general population.”

“As opportunities expand for top talent, businesses are taking steps to ensure they are seen as an employer of choice,” said Brett Good, a senior district president with Robert Half International, in the news release. “For example, to provide relief from heavy workloads that have built up in recent years, more companies are bringing in temporary and project professionals, as well as making targeted full-time hires.”

The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 C-level executives and other leaders from a variety of fields throughout the U.S., who are asked about their hiring plans and general level of optimism for the upcoming quarter. Survey respondents included more than 1,400 CFOs at companies with 20 or more employees; 1,400 CIOs at companies with 100 or more employees; 500 senior human resources managers at companies with 20 or more employees; 100 lawyers at law firms with more than 20 employees; 100 corporate lawyers at companies with 1,000 or more employees; 125 advertising executives at companies with 20 or more employees; and 375 marketing executives at companies with 100 or more employees, all of whom have hiring authority.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half International is a provider of professional staffing services.

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