Could finance and accounting, the career category that seems immune to job cuts, be subject to the same economic malaise that affects American workers overall?
That's one interpretation of a recent survey conducted by recruiting and staffing firm Spherion Corp., which compared the attitudes of finance and accounting employees with those of a broad cross-section of U.S. workers. It found them to be increasingly pessimistic about the economic outlook and availability of jobs in their field.
Out of 377 U.S. finance and accounting workers surveyed in December, 41 percent thought there were fewer available jobs, compared with 32 percent who believed that three months earlier. That contributed to a 10.6 percent drop in the "confidence index" that Spherion derives from its survey data.
Fundamentally, though, finance and accounting employees remain more upbeat than the overall working population (see chart). "Negative economic news and turmoil in the financial markets seem to be creating general unrest about where things are in the economy," says Brendan Courtney, a Spherion senior vice president. "Their confidence in their own job security and current company's prospects didn't go down. That suggests there are concerns, but those concerns aren't striking close to home."
Whether the confidence index will prove to be a leading indicator or simply a reflection of the nightly news remains to be seen, but the fact that a whopping 82 percent of finance and accounting employees say it's unlikely they'll lose their jobs suggests that they aren't taking their pessimism personally.