Financial staff and accountants will be in demand in the first quarter of 2011, according to Bank of America's annual CFO Outlook and a recent hiring index report from Robert Half.
Eighty-eight percent of chief financial officers surveyed by Robert Half said they were confident about their companies' outlook in the first quarter of next year, with a net 2% saying they plan to hire accounting and finance professionals. That's up from a net 1% of CFOs who said in September they planned to hire in the 2010 fourth quarter and is the largest percentage in more than two years.
"The good news is there's a trend toward hiring," said Bill Driscoll, Robert Half's New England district president.
Driscoll said that companies are searching for financial analysts, business system analysts and senior accountants, "the core bread –and-butter." Demand for tax professionals should increase during the first quarter as tax season gets underway, he said.
Of the Robert Half respondents, 86% said they expected no change in hiring trends for the first quarter, while 8% said they would increase their staff and 6% said they wouldn't. The recruiting company said it interviewed more than 1,400 CFOs for its survey.
According to Bank of America, 47% of CFOs said they expect their companies to hire additional employees next year, up 19% from last year. Only 6% said they expect layoffs, compared to 9% last year.
Manufacturing companies expect to be less aggressive about hiring than firms in service industries, the BofA survey said. Only 47% of executives at manufacturing companies predicted hiring, compared with 58% of CFOs in service industries, which includes finance.
That's because service companies immediately see an improvement when consumer spending increases, according to BofA spokesman Jefferson George. It takes a little longer for the results to "trickle down" to manufacturing companies, he said.
CFOs are having a harder time scooping up qualified staff, according to the Robert Half index. Half the respondents reported difficulty in locating highly skilled finance pros, four percentage points higher than last quarter and up 34% from the second quarter survey.
Write to Julie Steinberg