Menlo Park, Calif. — The majority of chief financial officers surveyed (88 percent) foresee no change in staffing levels during the third quarter, according to Robert Half International’s latest Financial Hiring Index.

“Many companies remain conservative and are waiting for signs of sustainable growth before increasing their human resources budgets significantly,” said Max Messmer, RHI Inc. chairman and chief executive.

Seven percent of 1,400 financial executives polled anticipate adding employees over the next three months, and 3 percent expect reductions in personnel. The projected net 4 percent increase is off two points from the second quarter forecast, but up four points over the same period last year, RHI reported. Among those CFOs expecting to add staff, 59 percent cited business growth as the primary reason, up 13 points from the second-quarter 2004 survey.

Messmer said the year-over-year increase in hiring optimism underscores recent positive economic trends that have raised business confidence levels, and noted that initiatives related to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance are fueling demand for accounting and internal audit professionals on both a full-time and a consulting basis.

Driven by strength in the construction and mortgage industries, CFOs in the South Atlantic states are the most optimistic about hiring in the third quarter, with 9 percent anticipating adding staff and none expecting reductions. Companies in those states are reporting increased demand for internal auditors, financial analysts, accounts payable and receivable personnel, and general accounting professionals.

A net 8 percent of CFOs in the New England region expect to hire additional full-time accounting and finance staff during the third quarter, while a net 7 percent of executives in both the East South Central and West South Central states projecting increased hiring.

The transportation industry is forecasting the greatest demand for accounting professionals, with 19 percent of CFOs planning to increase hiring and none expecting to reduce staff. A net 11 percent of executives in the finance, insurance and real estate industries anticipate adding staff during the quarter.

CFOs working in the construction and retail industries projected a net 6 percent increase in hiring, while a net 5 percent of executives within the wholesale and business-services industries plan to add accounting and finance personnel in the coming quarter.

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