According to the latest figures from the Recruitment Confidence Index, which is put together by the Cranfield School of Management, accountancy recruitment is expected to grow at a rate of 11% over the next six months ? down 3% on the same forecast at the beginning of the year.
But employers and recruitment experts say the dearth of top quality accountants for top-level positions continues to cause problems.
Published this week, the survey of UK directors and managers’ predictions of recruitment activity indicates that overall recruitment activity will grow at 34% over the next six months. They predicted growth of 40% at the beginning of the last quarter.
Just under half of respondents, 48%, expect to see an increase in their workforce in the next six months, while only 14% expect a fall. Manufacturing will be hardest hit.
Professor Shaun Tyson, of the Cranfield School of Management, said: ‘For the first time since December 1999 when the survey began, we are seeing a steep reduction in business confidence, especially in manufacturing. What we are looking at now are the first signs of worry and uncertainty about the future.’
In stark contrast to previous surveys, the percentage of respondents who are now optimistic about business has fallen by 17% from winter 2000/01, from 76% to 59%.
Although the predicted slowdown will ease some of the pressures for business in recruiting, expected pay rises do not appear to have been affected by the prevailing pessimism.
And many accountancy firms are still painting a positive picture.
‘We’re still doing a very heavy recruitment drive. It’s a busy time,’ said a spokesman for Big Five firm Ernst & Young. ‘There’s still a talent war going on. Some sectors might be affected, but we have not seen any noticeable downturn in professional services.’
A spokesman for Michael Page, the recruitment consultancy, forsees the same, particularly in the public and not-for-profit sectors.
He said: ‘Demand continues to outstrip supply. We?ve found that it’s a really busy time.’
At managerial level, the RCI survey predicts that accountants will continue to be in demand over the next six months despite a fall in expectations of 4% on the last quarter.
‘Most companies are not expecting as big a reduction in demand for their product or service as they are a reduction in business confidence.
‘This may seem a contradiction, but downturn in the US economy, problems in Japan, and even foot-and-mouth may have given people a generally negative view of the economy.
‘Therefore, the contradiction may be explained by the time lag that is likely to occur between these general effects on the economy and the impact on individual businesses.’
The RCI survey was launched in winter 1999/2000. The latest survey covered 535 organisations representing a cross-section of UK business.
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