Gloom Pervades Finance Workers

Like CFOs, rank-and-file finance-team members see little reason for optimism, especially in the outlook for the job market, survey results show.

A monthly index measuring the mood among accounting and finance workers rose slightly in 2007, on average, from its level in 2006. However, after peaking in March, the Hudson Employment Index dropped to its lowest level in November.

The workers’ bosses are also pessimistic. The credit crisis and the falling dollar have darkened the moods of finance chiefs in the past few months, with their optimism about the U.S. economy falling to a record low in the latest Duke University/CFO Magazine Business Outlook Survey.

The final results for the 2007 survey of 573 CFOs in the United States and 1,275 globally found that 72 percent are more pessimistic than they were in the previous quarter. Just 9 percent are more optimistic.

Since its inception six years ago, the Duke/CFO survey’s optimism index has never been lower. The gloomy outlook has been depressed especially by growing concern about weak consumer demand, rising fuel and labor costs, and turmoil in the credit markets. Such an outlook will likely slow growth in earnings, capital spending, and hiring, the report said.

Among the 9,000 respondents to the Hudson survey, those anticipating hiring at their companies fell three percentage points in November to 25 percent — the lowest figure in this category in the history of the index. There was also a 2-percentage-point jump to 17 percent for people expecting their employers to cut staff, the highest level for this response in nearly two years.

“Simply put, U.S. workers are worried that job growth is going to slow significantly in the coming months,” says Robert Morgan, co-president of recruitment and talent management at Hudson. “They remain concerned about finance-related issues, but that apprehension has boiled over so they are now seeing a more widespread problem.”

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