Accounting Profession Growing, But Slowly

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More employees are working fewer hours. But not in payroll.

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By Beth Bellor
CPA Trendlines Research

With CPA firms expanding an annualized rate of 2 percent, the tax and accounting profession may be growing, but in fits and starts rather than leaps.

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High points – and by “high” we just mean increases of 3.5 percent or more, so not stunning – include staff and women at CPA firms, as well as overall tax preparation services and payroll services employment, all year-over-year increases.

In this report, CPA Trendlines highlights:

  • Current hiring trends in each of the bookkeeping, payroll, tax and CPA segments of the industry.
  • Average hourly wages for key segments
  • Typical hours worked per week
  • Trends concerning women in the accounting workforce

The U.S. economy overall added 211,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate little changed at 4.4 percent. Employment in professional and business services grew by 39,000 in April; the sector has added 612,000 jobs over the past 12 months.

Chart of overall accounting profession employment
^ Overall accounting profession employment

ALL EMPLOYEES

The accounting profession employed 1,002,800 in April, up 5,200 for the month and 32,700 for the year, respective increases of 0.5 and 3.4 percent. Weekly hours average 35.4, down 6 minutes or 0.3 percent for the month and flat for the year. Hourly earnings average $31.55, down a penny for the month, statistically flat, but up 45 cents or 1.4 percent year over year.

STAFF

Staff number 760,300, increases of 9,500 or 1.3 percent for the month and 22,600 or 3.1 percent for the year. They work 33.9 hours per week, flat for the month and down 36 minutes or 1.7 percent for the year. Earnings, at $24.58, rose 6 cents for both the month and year, upticks of 0.2 percent for each.

CPA FIRMS, ALL EMPLOYEES

CPA firms employ 473,200, up 800 or 0.2 percent for the month and 9,500 or 2 percent for the year. Workers average 36.6 hours per week, down 12 minutes for the month and 6 minutes for the year, declines of 0.5 and 0.3 percent respectively. Earnings averaged $34.33, up 16 cents or 0.5 percent for the month and a mere penny or statistically flat for the year.

Chart of staff employment at CPA firms
^ Staff employment at CPA firms

CPA FIRMS, STAFF

Staff at CPA firms number 350,700, up 2,200 or 0.6 percent for the month and 17,100 or 5.1 percent for the year. They work 35.4 hours, down 36 minutes or 1.7 percent for the month and 6 minutes or 0.3 percent for the year. They earn $26.45, up 16 cents or 0.6 percent for the month and 13 cents or 0.5 percent for the year.

TAX PREP

Tax preparation services employ 99,900, up 200 or 0.2 percent for the month and 3,500 or 3.6 percent for the year.

PAYROLL AGENCIES

Payroll employees dipped to 167,800, down 1,600 or 0.9 percent for the month but up 7,000 or 4.4 percent for the year. Their hours are flat for the month at 35.6 and down 12 minutes or 0.6 percent for the year. After spending all of 2016 above $30 and even $31, earnings dropped below $30 for the second time this year to $29.95, down 15 cents or 0.5 percent for the month and $1.01 or 3.3 percent for the year.

Payroll staff number 141,700, down 1,900 or 1.3 percent for the month but up 3,200 or 2.3 percent for the year. They work 34.8 hours weekly, up 6 minutes for the month and 42 minutes for the year, 0.3 and 2.1 percent respectively. Earnings at $24.60 are down 23 cents or 0.9 percent for the month and 18 cents or 0.7 percent for the year.

BOOKKEEPING

Creeping gains in other accounting services continued for the fourth straight month, with employment at 254,800, up 1,100 or 0.4 percent for the month and 3,000 or 1.2 percent for the year.

WOMEN

Women’s numbers rose to 620,100, up 4,600 or 0.7 percent for the month and 17,200 or 2.9 percent for the year. There are 291,200 women at CPA firms, up 1,200 or 0.4 percent for the month and 10,400 or 3.7 percent for the year. In payroll, their numbers fell the third straight month to 77,000, down 2,700 or 3.4 percent for the month but up 1,300 or 1.7 percent for the year.

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