The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that employers added 227,000 jobs in January in a strong start for the year, although the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 4.8 percent as more people returned to the workforce -- and the accounting and bookkeeping services sector actually lost jobs overall on a seasonally adjusted basis.
In January, employment in professional and technical services rose by 23,000, roughly in line with the average monthly gain last year. Many of the job gains occurred in computer systems design and related services, which added 13,000 jobs. However, accounting and bookkeeping lost 7,100 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. When not seasonally adjusted, the trend was far better, with a gain of 67,400 jobs. Many accounting businesses add extra staff for tax season.
Employment increased in the retail, construction and financial activities sectors despite store closures and layoffs announced by several chains such as Macy’s, Sears, Kmart and the Limited, along with a hiring freeze at many federal government agencies ordered by the Trump administration.
President Trump greeted the news of the overall job gains, saying Friday, “227,000 jobs, great spirit in the country right now. So we’re very happy about that. I think that it’s going to continue big league. We’re bringing back jobs, we’re bringing down your taxes. We’re getting rid of your regulations. And I think it's going to be some really very exciting times ahead. We’re going to be coming up with a tax bill soon, a health care bill even sooner. And it’s really working out.”
Despite the job losses in the accounting and bookkeeping sector, Kim Gottschalk, senior regional vice president at the staffing company Accounting Principals, is still seeing high demand for accountants.
“What we’re really seeing overall is incredibly strong job gains in the private sector, specifically in small and medium companies,” she said. “If we look at the treacherous areas of the economy, like the changes within retail and some of the freezes within government, I suspect that’s the reason you’re seeing some of those changes. However, we see strong growth in the private sector, specifically within accounting, auditors, financial analysts, human resources at all levels. That’s in the small and medium space and that’s in the private sector. Those are the best signs that I hope to see.”
She believes there is still a talent shortage for accountants with the right skills. “There’s no change in the advice Accounting Principals is continuing to give our clients, which is they have to be continue to be very competitive with wages and other sorts of benefits, and even stretching on the sorts of job duties and hiring for things like technology skills to attract the kinds of people they need because all of those things being equal the shortage of good talent has not changed for us,” said Gottschalk.
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