According to the latest quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors was 1.5% in the second quarter of 2019. That’s down slightly from the already low 1.8% in Q1 — and notably lower than the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.
The accountant unemployment rate is defined by the number of professionals who have looked for accounting work in the previous four weeks but remain unemployed, as compared to the total number of accountants in the labor force.
Unemployment rates for other specialized roles in finance and accounting also continue to trend low, including the following:
- Billing and posting clerks (1.0%)
- Financial managers (1.2%)
- Financial analysts (1.4%)
- Accountants and auditors (1.5%)
- Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks (1.8%)
All of these statistics point to a continued tight hiring market, which means job candidates still have an advantage due to the existence of more job openings than job seekers — and employers still face increased competition to find top talent.
Advice for employers on the accountant unemployment rate
"In this job market, employers are having difficulty finding top talent in finance and accounting, so they must broaden their candidate search and adjust their hiring criteria," says Steve Saah, executive director of Robert Half Finance & Accounting.
If you’re a hiring manager, Saah offers this advice: Narrow your hiring criteria to the most critical attributes. Be more flexible. If you’re unable to find someone who perfectly matches the job description but does have the soft skills to succeed in the role, you may be able to provide them with on-the-job education and training opportunities to fill in what’s missing.
Another tip is to expand your reach. Cast a wide net and augment your efforts by doing some extra networking and tapping your existing employees as resources for referrals. Consider working with a specialized staffing agency that can help you find skilled professionals who are not actively seeking work but would jump at the right position if it came along.
And most importantly: Don’t wait.
"Organizations must move as quickly as possible in their interview process and hiring,” Saah says. “Top candidates have options and won't wait long for the business to make a decision."
Job searching in today’s candidate-driven market
Whether you’re fresh out of school, looking to pivot to a new company or industry, or thinking about making a complete career change, the job market is tilted in your favor. Saah says you need to take a step back, evaluate your experience and skills, and explore your options.
“Tap into your network of finance-industry colleagues, starting with the people you know best,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to ask them to put in a good word for you or put you in touch with someone else who can help.”
If you decide now is a good time for a job search, even a passive one, craft your best resume and cover letter, and round up your references.
“If your resume is compelling enough, it’s likely to lead to an interview,” Saah says.
Before you get too far into the process, consider your preferences regarding corporate culture, salary and benefits, and work-life balance.
And no matter what the accountant unemployment rate is, working with a staffing firm can help you uncover opportunities that might even become your dream job in accounting and finance.
Take a look at the job openings in your city.
Steve Saah is the executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading worldwide operations and is based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.