Help Not Wanted: CFOs Will Do Less Hiring Next Year

Survey shows job market for finance managers weakest since 1992. Financial analysts, credit and collection specialists still in demand, however.

Chief financial officers expect to slow down the hiring of accounting and finance professionals in the first quarter of 2002. This, according to the quarterly Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index, a national poll of 1,400 CFOs at businesses with 20 or more employees.

Seven percent of CFOs surveyed said their companies expect to add accounting and finance staff while 4 percent expect to cut their ranks. The remaining 83 percent of the executives in the survey figure not to change their hiring activity.

While more respondents plan to add staff than cut back, the net 3 percent hiring increase is one percentage point lower than the previous quarter’s forecast. More troubling: it’s five points below the same period last year.

Indeed, the outlook for the hiring of finance managers is the gloomiest since September 1992. That’s when Half began tracking financial hiring activity in the U.S.

“The uncertain economic climate is contributing to the slowdown in financial hiring activity,” notes Max Messmer, chairman and CEO at Robert Half International. “Companies are making more cautious staffing decisions, and are frequently opting to maintain existing personnel levels rather than hire new employees.”

Not all of the green eye-shade set are finding fewer job opportunities, however. With more businesses focusing on improving cash flow, demand has risen for financial analysts and credit and collections specialists, according to Half.

Looking at the overall hiring plans by region, CFOs in the Mountain states are most optimistic about hiring in the first quarter. Thirteen percent of executives plan to expand their accounting and finance departments, and 3 percent forecast staff reductions, for a net hiring increase of 10 percent. “Growth in the region’s financial services and construction industries is creating a need for additional accounting support at all levels,” Messmer states.

Financial executives in the East, South, Central, and West North Central states also anticipate employment gains above the national average, according to the poll. CFOs in both regions forecast a net 6 percent increase in accounting and finance hiring.

Which industry is the best place for a finance executive to seek a job? The retail sector figures to lead the country in financial hiring activity in the first quarter of 2002, according to the survey. Thirteen percent of CFOs in the retail industry plan to expand their accounting and finance departments, and 4 percent expect staff cutbacks, for a net hiring increase of 9 percent.

Employment growth is also expected to exceed the national average among business services firms, where financial executives project a net 7 percent increase in hiring. CFOs in the transportation sector anticipate a net hiring increase of 6 percent.

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