A growing shortage of accountants is pushing more companies to raise salaries or seek temporary help to bolster their finance teams amid an economic downturn.
Over the past decade, many employers have struggled to find skilled workers, a challenge accelerated by a drop in the number of job seekers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The US labor force has been shrinking since the start of 2020 as more baby boomers retire.
In particular, companies’ accounting and financial departments, which are crucial for managing financial operations, internal controls and financial reporting, are suffering from understaffing. Fewer people are pursuing accounting studies and starting new jobs in this field, resulting in more vacancies for related roles and more time-consuming searches. And digitization and automation should not fill the void.
According to Revelio Labs Inc., a workplace data provider, the number of postings for accounting and auditing jobs in the United States stood at around 177,880 jobs this year through November 30, up from 141,340 in the prior year period and the highest since at least 2008. . People started 113,400 of those positions this year through Nov. 30, down 15.9% from the year-ago period, Revelio said. Audit and accounting positions take an average of 56 days to fill, compared to 46 in the prior year period.
“It’s still a very competitive job market and accounting and finance are even more competitive,” said Brandi Britton, executive director of finance and accounting at Robert Half International. Inc.,
a human resources consulting firm. In a recent Robert Half survey of more than 1,500 business leaders operating in the United States, 87% of respondents said they are finding it increasingly difficult to find the talent they need for general accounting, financial reporting and financial planning and analysis.
The lack of accounting and auditing personnel affects companies in all sectors and of all sizes, although small businesses and private companies are going through a particularly difficult period.
Based in Incline Village, Nevada, winemaker Vintage Wine Estates Inc.
tries to fill vacancies within 90 days, but in recent months it has taken nearly double that time, said chief financial officer Kristina Johnston. The company added six employees to its finance team between March and November, bringing it to 22, she said. Vintage Wine Estates said it had about 700 employees, 100 of them part-time or seasonal. “We’ve struggled across the board, but I think where you’re looking for a specific skill set, there’s a bigger challenge to fill the job,” Ms Johnston said.
The company offers higher salaries to applicants for certain positions and turns to temporary workers such as interns, Ms Johnston said, but declined to provide salary details. “We’ve sweetened the pot a little bit where the company originated from,” she said.
Some companies also struggle to find the right skills. Nexans HER,
a cable manufacturer, is looking for financial specialists experienced not only in technical accounting but also in strategic decision-making, for example controllers and financial directors who assess the risks associated with wind farms and other long-term projects, said financial director Jean-Christophe Juillard. But, in recent months, the Paris-based company has been unable to find workers with those skills, he said.
“We have the people, but I don’t think the people we have are necessarily the most qualified,” he said, adding that cabling is a niche industry.
The company has approximately 500 finance employees in 40 countries and approximately 10% of its revenue comes from the United States. It has 20 to 30 open positions in finance and accounting globally, Juillard said.
Companies are also trying to retain the finance and accounting workers they have. GEE Group based in Jacksonville, Florida Inc.,
a staffing firm, promotes people at a faster rate and gives them more frequent pay raises, said chief financial officer Kim Thorpe. “Securing that talent has been the biggest issue,” Mr. Thorpe said.
GEE used to elevate staff accountants to senior accountants in one to three years and to managers in three to six years, Mr Thorpe said. Now those promotions take less time, with Mr Thorpe nominating an employee who became director of financial reporting in less than two years.
GEE has approximately 300 permanent employees and more than 2,000 temporary workers. Its 20-person accounting and finance team is expected to grow in mid-to-high single digits each year due to the company’s strong growth, Mr. Thorpe said.
But the problem for companies is not just the tight labor market. The profession is also attracting fewer job applicants, with the number of US students earning accounting degrees falling by 2.8% for bachelor’s degrees and 8.4% for master’s degrees in the 2019 academic year. to 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the latest available data from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a professional organization.
Among the reasons for the decline: Fewer people are pursuing a college education overall, and often there’s a lack of awareness of career opportunities in auditing and accounting, said Lisa Simpson, vice president of corporate services. cabinets at the AICPA. The organization said it works to educate high school and college students about the profession.
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A potential recession could bring more students back into the profession, Ms Britton said. In downturns, students tend to gravitate toward accounting and finance degrees, as they are seen as more stable career paths than, say, marketing and communications.
Demand for accounting and finance professionals is likely to continue to rise, prompting more companies to become more flexible with whom they hire, Robert Half’s Ms Britton said.
Automation and digitization have not eliminated the need for accounting staff, but have led to changes in roles or new roles, she said. “The bottom line is that the shortage will persist.”
Write to Mark Maurer at email@example.com
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