Strongest Outlook Forecast For Finance, Insurance And Real Estate Sector

MENLO PARK, CA -- Chief financial officers (CFOs) are projecting a decline in financial hiring activity during the fourth quarter of 2001, according to the latest Robert Half Financial Hiring Index. Ten percent of CFOs surveyed said their firms plan to add accounting and finance staff, while six percent foresee personnel reductions in the last three months of the year. The net four percent increase in hiring is down three points from the prior quarter’s forecast. Eighty-two percent of executives anticipate no change in hiring activity.

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, the world's largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting, finance and information technology.

"Companies are hiring more judiciously as a result of recent economic trends," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half. "Employers are carefully assessing both short- and long-term business needs before adding full-time personnel."

Messmer noted that while the overall employment environment is conservative, demand remains strong nationwide for accounting and finance professionals with exceptional technology skills and industry-specific experience.

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Region

The Pacific1 and South Atlantic2 regions of the United States are forecasting above-average hiring levels through the end of the year. In the Pacific states, 17 percent of CFOs plan to expand their accounting and finance staff and just 3 percent anticipate reductions in personnel, resulting in a net hiring increase of 14 percent -- 10 points above the national average.

"While parts of the Pacific region have been harder hit by the economic contraction than others, firms throughout the area continue to report solid demand for accounting and finance staff," Messmer said.

CFOs in the South Atlantic states also are optimistic about financial hiring activity in the fourth quarter. Ten percent of executives expect to add staff and 4 percent plan reductions in personnel, leaving a net 6 percent increase in hiring.

Accounting and Financial Hiring -- By Industry

CFOs in the finance, insurance and real estate sector anticipate hiring gains well above the national average. Twenty-one percent of financial executives plan to add personnel and 6 percent expect reductions in staff size, for a net hiring increase of 15 percent. Messmer noted, "Lower interest rates and subsequent declines in mortgage rates have boosted home sales and encouraged refinancing in many areas of the country."

The transportation industry (transportation, communications, electric, gas and sanitary services) will also see solid financial hiring activity in the fourth quarter, according to the survey. Fifteen percent of CFOs in this sector expect to hire additional employees and 2 percent expect declines in staff levels, for a net hiring increase of 13 percent. Other industries projecting hiring gains above the national average include business services, where executives anticipate a net 9 percent increase in hiring; and retail, with a net 5 percent increase in hiring activity forecast for the fourth quarter of 2001.

Robert Half was founded in 1948 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RHI). Its financial staffing divisions include Accountemps®, Robert Half® and RHI Management Resources®, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively. The company has more than 330 offices throughout North America, Europe and Australia, and offers online job search services at


Financial Hiring Index: By Region

Financial Hiring Index: By Industry

Financial Hiring Index: By Comparative Data


1 Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington
2 Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia

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