Eighty-four percent of CFOs plan to maintain their current accounting and finance staff levels in the fourth quarter, according to a new survey.

The survey, by staffing company Robert Half International, found that only 4 percent of the 1,400 CFOs polled expect to add full-time employees, while 10 percent foresee cutbacks, up from 8 percent who forecast personnel reductions last quarter. 

“Organizations appear to be exercising caution before adding full-time staff until there are signs of a sustained recovery,” said Robert Half chairman and CEO Max Messmer. “At the same time, companies recognize that carefully chosen accounting and finance professionals are critical to their efforts to manage what remains of the recession and also to take advantage of growth opportunities once conditions improve.”

Despite current unemployment levels, CFOs continue to report challenges finding highly skilled professionals for certain functional areas. Twenty-five percent of the financial executives polled said accounting positions are the most difficult to fill, while audit and operational support roles were each cited by 19 percent of the respondents.

The West North Central states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota are projected to experience the most active hiring in the fourth quarter. However, even in this region the overall sentiment among CFOs is that staff levels will remain constant. A net 2 percent of survey respondents anticipate adding full-time accounting and finance employees, while 90 percent expect no change.

The finance, insurance and real estate industry is projected to see the most increase in accounting and finance hiring. A net 6 percent of CFOs in the sector said they plan to add staff in the fourth quarter.

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