Finance hiring is expected to increase slightly in the fourth quarter, according to a new survey.

The survey, by staffing company Robert Half International, found that 8 percent of the 1,400 CFOs interviewed plan said they plan to hire full-time accounting and finance employees during the fourth quarter, while 7 percent expect staff reductions. The net 1 percentage point increase in hiring activity is the first net increase since the first quarter of 2009.

The majority of CFOs (84 percent) expect no changes to their personnel levels.
A significant majority (86 percent) of the executives interviewed are at least somewhat optimistic about the outlook for their businesses, including 39 percent who are very confident.

“While employers remain cautious about adding staff, more firms also are concerned they could miss out on business opportunities by not having adequate human resources in place,” said Robert Half International chairman and CEO Max Messmer. “Rising customer demands are placing added pressure on companies that made deep personnel cuts in recent years. Some businesses not in a position to hire full-time are addressing the gap by bringing in professionals on a temporary or project basis.”

The West South Central states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas are projected to see the most active hiring in the fourth quarter, with a net 6 percent of CFOs in the region expecting to add full-time accounting and finance employees. Retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and oil and gas services companies in the region are rebuilding their teams, according to Messmer. Demand is particularly strong for operational and staff-level accounting roles.

The Pacific states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington also are expected to see above-average hiring activity. A net 5 percent of CFOs in the region expect to add personnel.

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