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Snapshot of a Tight Accounting & Finance Labor Market

It’s a good time to be an accounting and finance professional. Unemployment is low, and talent is in high demand. Here’s a look at what’s behind the tight labor market and what it means for employers and job candidates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its Current Employment Statistics Highlights for August of 2017 showing jobs in financial activities and professional and business services (the sector that includes accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services) continue to trend up. The financial industry has added 149,000 jobs over the past 12 months, and employment in professional and business services has risen by an annualized 2.8 percent.

Overall, unemployment continues to hover at around 4.4 percent and historically, economists consider the economy to be at full employment when unemployment is between 4-5 percent.

Several factors contribute to low unemployment for accounting and financial professionals:

  • Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of about 10,000 a day and are expected to continue at that clip through 2030. The AICPA expects more than 75 percent of today’s CPAs to retire within the next 15 years.
  • Increased financial regulations and changes to financial reporting require accounting and finance experts who can interpret the rules to ensure that management and staff comply
  • Worldwide economic growth and increasing global trade mean the world needs experts who understand International Financial Accounting Standards
  • The growth of big data and business intelligence is creating new business models, creating more demand for accounting and financial professionals with IT and consulting skills.

What the tight labor market means for employers

Employers need to recognize that there is intense competition for the best and brightest accounting and finance professionals. Candidates are applying for multiple positions and weighing offers from several companies. To have a chance at attracting the right people and reeling them in:

  • Speed up the hiring process. While finding the right match is important, employers no longer have the luxury of spending months interviewing candidates. Make a decision and extend an offer before your competition does.
  • Set reasonable expectations. You may not find candidates who have the perfect combination of skills, experience, degrees, and certifications. Instead, look for someone with an attitude and personality that fits well with your culture and invest in training for skills.
  • Offer a competitive salary. Offering competitive pay is your best bet for winning the best candidates. Check out our 2018 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide for the most up-to-date accounting and finance salary info.

What the tight labor market means for employees

Accounting and finance professional have negotiating power in their favor to command competitive compensation, but they can’t simply name their salaries. Employers are equipped with the latest salary data and often can’t afford to overpay. Here’s how to capitalize on the tight labor market in a smart way.

  • Take the opportunity to change industries or careers. Have you been considering a career change? Now is the time. With labor in such short supply, employers are more willing than ever to consider unconventional experience and skills.
  • Negotiate for perks. If an otherwise excellent company just can’t offer the salary you’re expecting, negotiate for perks. For example, ask for a relaxed dress code, full or partial telecommuting or additional training and development opportunities.
  • Continue to put in the effort. Candidates may have the upper hand when it comes to hiring, but it’s still important to network, have a tailored resume, and interview well.

Finding and keeping talent in a tight labor market is one of the toughest challenges an organization may face. With today’s extremely low unemployment rates for accounting and finance professionals, the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. Plan initiatives that will improve your organization’s internal and external appeal to stay on top of the hiring game. Check out our 2018 Salary Guide for the latest figures for accounting and finance professionals.


Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.