Demand for Accounting Professionals Strongest in Business Services Sector

MENLO PARK, CA -- The hiring of accounting and finance professionals is expected to increase modestly in the second quarter of 2003, according to the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index.

Nine percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed plan to expand their accounting and finance departments, and 4 percent expect staff reductions. The majority of respondents, 85 percent, anticipate no change in hiring. The net 5 percent increase is up one point from last quarter's forecast and is the highest level reported since the third quarter of 2001.

Robert Half International has been tracking financial hiring projections in the United States since 1992. The national poll includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half International Inc., the world's largest staffing services firm specializing in the accounting, finance and information technology fields.

CFOs planning to hire additional accounting and finance professionals in the coming quarter were asked to identify the primary factor driving the demand. Nearly half (48 percent) cited business growth. (See chart.)

"Businesses that have reduced personnel or placed hiring plans on hold for several quarters may be experiencing pent-up demand for financial talent," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "While the overall hiring environment remains conservative, those firms that are adding staff are doing so to facilitate current or future expansion and to meet rising workload demands."

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Region

For the second consecutive quarter, financial executives in the Pacific1 states are most optimistic about upcoming hiring activity -- 14 percent of CFOs in this region plan to add personnel during the second quarter while just 1 percent anticipate staff reductions. The net 13 percent increase is up five points from the previous quarter's forecast.

CFOs in the East North Central2 states also project hiring activity well above the national average. Thirteen percent of CFOs expect to hire accounting and finance professionals while 2 percent foresee personnel cutbacks, resulting in a net increase of 11 percent.

"Businesses in the Pacific region report demand at the staff level for accounts receivables and accounts payables professionals as well as collections specialists," Messmer said. "With continued low interest rates, finance professionals are also in demand in mortgage- and banking-related fields.

"The East North Central region is benefiting from growth in the healthcare industry, resulting in the need for medical billing and claims specialists," Messmer said. "In addition, corporate tax and audit specialists are in demand as public companies focus their efforts on corporate governance issues."

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Industry

CFOs in the business services3 sector are most optimistic about second-quarter hiring activity, according to the survey. Sixteen percent of those polled said they intend to hire accounting and finance staff and none reported plans for staff cutbacks. The net 16 percent hiring increase is up five points over the first-quarter forecast. Retail executives also anticipate strong hiring activity during the second quarter, with a net 13 percent increase projected, up three points from the previous quarter and up 10 points from the fourth-quarter 2002 forecast.

Robert Half International Inc. was founded in 1948 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RHI). Its financial staffing divisions include Accountemps©, Robert Half© Finance & Accounting and Robert Half© Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively. The company has more than 325 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and offers online job search services on its divisional websites, all of which can be accessed at

1 Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington
2 Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin
3 Advertising; personnel services; data processing; repair services; motion pictures and amusement and recreation services

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