Accounting and finance workers rang in the New Year with a dose of cynicism about the employment market, according to a poll by staffing firm Hudson.

The Hudson Employment Index for accounting and finance workers slid 2.4 points in December to 110.5, its second-lowest reading during 2004, and the third straight month that sector workers' confidence in their employment market declined.

Hudson cited a rise in the percentage of workers anticipating staff layoffs and those who believe that their personal finances have worsened as key factors contributing to the drop in worker confidence.

The percentage of accounting workers anticipating that their firms will add staff fell two points to 36 percent in December from 38 percent in the previous month, while the percentage of workers expecting layoffs rose three points, from 19 percent to 22 percent, in December. The number of workers worried about losing their own jobs increased a point over last month to 18 percent.

Accounting and finance workers were also less confident about their future employment prospects. The number expecting their next job to be better than their current assignment declined two points to 48 percent in December -- which Hudson said might explain why fewer workers were looking for new jobs. Only 23 percent were job-hunting in December, compared with 27 percent in November. Meanwhile, the percentage of accounting and finance workers who believed that their personal financial situations had worsened climbed four points to 37 percent in December.

Accounting workers' pessimism matched that of workers among all employment sectors, as the national Hudson Employment Index, based on a survey of 9,224 workers, also reached an annual low in December, falling 1.3 points to 103.6. The percentage of U.S. workers who expect staff layoffs and those worried about losing their own jobs both increased a percentage point to 19 percent in December. By comparison, a year ago, 17 percent expected layoffs and 20 percent were worried about losing their own jobs.

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