Plans to hire accounting and finance professionals apparently aren't on the list of New Year's resolutions of most chief financial officers, according to a Robert Half International survey.

The vast majority of CFOs surveyed (86 percent) forecast no change in staffing levels for the first quarter of 2005, according to the latest RHI Financial Hiring Index, which polled 1,400 CFOs. Nine percent of executives polled plan to add accounting and finance staff in the first quarter, while 4 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. 

The projected net 5 percent increase in hiring is down one point from last quarter's forecast, but is three points above projections made this time last year, according to RHI.

Sixty-five percent of executives who plan to hire during the first three months of 2005 cited business growth as the primary driver, up seven points from the fourth-quarter 2004 survey.

By region, CFOs in the West South Central region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) are forecasting the greatest hiring activity during the first quarter, with a net 9 percent planning to add full-time accounting and finance employees. The West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota) and Mountain states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) are also projecting hiring activity above the national average, with a net 8 percent and 7 percent of CFOs, respectively, expecting to bring in accounting and finance staff during the first quarter. A net 6 percent of executives in the South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) and East South Central regions (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) of the country plan to add full-time staff in the coming months.

By industry, financial hiring in the wholesale sector is expected to outpace all other industries, with 14 percent of executives polled expecting to add personnel and none forecasting personnel declines.

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