A growing shortage of accountants is causing an increasing number of businesses to raise salaries or seek temporary help to strengthen their finance teams as the economy slows.
Many employers have struggled to find qualified workers over the last decade, a challenge exacerbated by a drop in the number of job seekers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. As more baby boomers retire, the labor force in the United States has been shrinking since early 2020.
Accounting and finance departments in particular, which are critical for managing financial operations, internal controls, and financial reporting, are understaffed. Fewer people are pursuing accounting degrees and starting new careers in this field, resulting in more open positions for related roles and longer searches. And digitization and automation are unlikely to fill the void. Accounting and audit workers are in short supply across industries and sizes, with smaller and privately held businesses suffering the most.
Vintage Wine Estates Inc., based in Incline Village, Nev., tries to fill open positions within 90 days, but it has taken nearly twice that time in recent months, according to Chief Financial Officer Kristina Johnston. Between March and November, the company added six employees to its finance team, bringing the total to 22, she said. Vintage Wine Estates claims to have 700 employees, including 100 part-time or seasonal employees. “We’ve struggled across the board, but I do believe that where you’re looking for a specific skill set, it’s a greater challenge filling the position,” Ms. Johnston said.
Ms. Johnston said the company is offering higher salaries to candidates for certain positions and turning to temporary workers such as interns, but she declined to provide pay details. “We sweetened the pot from where the company was originally,” she explained.
However, the issue for businesses is more than just a tight labor market. Students who completed accounting degrees falling by 2.8% for bachelor’s and 8.4% for master’s in the 2019 to 2020 academic year compared with the prior year, according to the latest available data from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a professional organization.
According to Lisa Simpson, vice president of firm services at the AICPA, one of the reasons for the decline is that fewer people are pursuing college degrees in general, and there is often a lack of awareness about career opportunities in audit and accounting. According to the organization, it is working to raise awareness about the profession among high- and middle-school students.