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CFOs EXPECT MODEST GROWTH IN FIRST-QUARTER HIRING

Third Consecutive Quarter of Solid Gains in Finance, Insurance and Real Estate Sector

The hiring of full-time accounting and finance professionals is expected to increase slightly during the first quarter of 2004, according to the most recent Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index.  Seven percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed plan to add staff in the first quarter, and 5 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. The net 2 percent hiring increase is up one percentage point from the fourth-quarter 2003 forecast. The majority of respondents, 88 percent, anticipate no change in hiring.

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 accounting, finance and information technology.

Robert Half International has been tracking financial hiring activity in the United States since 1992. “As business activity increases, companies operating with reduced staff levels may be finding it more difficult to keep pace with workload demands,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “Many firms are promoting core members of their teams and, as a result, are seeking to hire entry- and midlevel professionals who can expand the depth of skills in their departments.”

In the survey, 37 percent of CFOs who said they plan to hire accounting and finance professionals during the first quarter cited anticipated business growth as the primary factor driving the demand, up from 30 percent in the fourth quarter.

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Region

CFOs in the Mountain1 region anticipate the most active hiring during the first quarter, with a net 7 percent increase in the hiring of financial professionals forecast. Eleven percent of CFOs in the region plan to add full-time staff and 4 percent anticipate personnel reductions. “Businesses in the Mountain region report increased demand for credit and collections professionals, as well as senior and staff accountants with experience in the business services, healthcare and real estate industries,” Messmer said.

First-quarter hiring activity in the East North Central2 region is also expected to outpace the rest of the nation with a projected net hiring increase of 6 percent. Personnel additions are anticipated by 7 percent of CFOs in the region, while just 1 percent expect to cut staff. “Activity in the transportation, healthcare and manufacturing sectors is driving the need for bookkeepers, credit and collections specialists, and cost accountants in the East North Central region,” Messmer noted.

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Industry

Hiring among CFOs in the finance, insurance and real estate sector is expected to surpass other industries for the third consecutive quarter, with a net hiring increase of 5 percent projected for the first three months of the new year. Fifteen percent of financial executives in this industry segment expect to hire personnel, and 10 percent anticipate staff reductions. “An increase in merger and acquisition activity within the industry is creating demand for financial analysts, while continued strength in the residential real estate market is driving demand for credit analysts, loan processors and other related positions,” Messmer said.

Financial executives in the manufacturing sector also anticipate hiring activity above the national average. Seven percent of CFOs in this industry expect to add staff during the first quarter while 3 percent report plans to reduce staff.

Robert Half International Inc. was founded in 1948 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. 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 www.rhi.com.

1 Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming

2 Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin


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