Scarcity of skilled workers tops business leaders list of concerns

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
August 31, 2017 4:40am
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•  AICPA survey also finds rising expectations for higher profits and revenue growth

•  “A majority say they’re having trouble finding the right candidate to begin with”


There is a dark cloud on the horizon for U.S. businesses: the growing scarcity of suitable job candidates.

That’s according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs, released Thursday.

For the first time, “availability of skilled personnel” was cited as the top challenge facing companies, up from No. 2 in an earlier survey.

Seventy-five percent of respondents in the new survey say they were seeing at least some increased competition in recruitment efforts, with 21 percent reporting a significant increase. At the end of 2014, the last time this survey question was asked, only 16 percent said they were experiencing a significant increase in hiring competition.

“One out of five business executives say their company has lost out on top job candidates because of increased competition, and a majority say they’re having trouble finding the right candidate to begin with,” says Arleen Thomas, an officer with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. “For some companies, the scarcity of skilled workers could have an impact on productivity and growth over time.”

But other than lack of qualified skilled workers, business executives maintain their generally upbeat view of prospects for the U.S. economy, and have upgraded expectations for profit and revenue growth over the next 12 months, according to the third-quarter AICPA survey, which polls chief executive officers, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

Despite recruiting challenges, half of business executives say their companies have the right number of employees. Nearly one-in-four (24 percent) say they plan to hire immediately, the same as last quarter, while another 15 percent say they had too few employees but were hesitant to hire. Business executives who said their companies had too many employees dropped from 8 percent to 7 percent, quarter over quarter.

Sixty-four percent of business executives say they are optimistic about the 12-month prospects for the U.S. economy, the same as last quarter. Revenue and profit expectations returned to levels from the start of the year after dipping last quarter. Business executives now expect revenue growth of 4.3 percent over the next 12 months, up from 3.9 percent. Profits are expected to grow 3.5 percent, up from 3.2 percent last quarter.

Other key findings of the survey:

• Sixty-six percent of business executives expressed optimism about their own companies’ prospects over the next 12 months, up two percentage points from last quarter.

• The percentage of business executives who expect their company to expand in the coming year increased from 64 percent to 65 percent, quarter over quarter, but remains below the level reported at the start of the year (67 percent).

• Besides “availability of skilled personnel,” the top three concerns for business are No. 2 “regulatory requirements and changes” and No. 3 “domestic competition.” “Employee and benefit costs,” meanwhile, dropped from the top slot last quarter to No. 5.

• IT remains the strongest category for planned spending over the coming year, with an expected growth rate of 3.5 percent

Methodology

About the numbers

The AICPA survey is a forward-looking indicator that tracks hiring and business-related expectations for the next 12 months. As a point of comparison, the U.S. Department of Labor’s August employment report looks back on the previous month’s hiring trends.

The third-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted August 1-16, and included 775 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the report can be found on aicpa.org.


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