Only 3 percent of CFOs plan to add accounting and finance employees in the third quarter, according to a new survey by staffing company Robert Half International.

[IMGCAP(1)]Ninety-three percent of the 1,400 CFOs interviewed expect to maintain their current staff levels in the upcoming quarter, while 4 percent anticipate staff decreases. 

Despite the conservative hiring forecast, 69 percent of the executives surveyed said they face a recruiting environment that is either somewhat or very challenging. That’s up from 62 percent last quarter.

"The eurozone debt crisis, as well as inconsistent economic indicators in the United States, may be prompting companies to take a more measured approach to hiring," said Robert Half International chairman and CEO Max Messmer in a statement. "While many companies are not expected to change the size of their staff in the immediate term, financial executives continue to report difficulty finding skilled talent in high-demand specialties. Positions in demand include financial analysts, senior and staff accountants, and business systems analysts."

Executives in the retail industry expect to do the most hiring in the third quarter, according to the survey. Four percent of respondents in the sector said they expect to add accounting and finance professionals, compared to 2 percent who anticipate cutbacks.

The West South Central region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, is expected to see the most active hiring in the third quarter, with a net 1 percent of executives interviewed planning to hire full-time accounting and finance employees. Two percent of CFOs in these states anticipate adding staff, while 1 percent forecast personnel reductions.

In the South Atlantic region, which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, 3 percent of respondents anticipate hiring and 3 percent expect staff decreases. Two percent of CFOs in the West North Central region, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, plan staff increases, while another 2 percent foresee reducing staff levels.

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