The Recession Catches up with Accountants

The crashing economy is starting to show it's effects on tax and accounting employment, typically among the last of the economic sectors to be hit in a recession.

Today's government report showed the U.S. economy lost 524,000 jobs in December, a 3.9% month-to-month decline -- the worst since 1945.

It was a disastrous jobs report that had economists rushing for the fallout shelters. And the numbers seem to be finally catching up with tax and accounting workers.

The number of employees in the accounting and bookkeeping services segment dropped by 3,400 jobs, about 3.5%, to a seasonally adjusted 964,900, down from 968,300 in November and a record 993,300 in the same year-ago month.

We have don't yet have further detail from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the tax and accounting business for December. But new data was issued for November. It's not seasonally adjusted.

For CPA firms, employment rosters declined by 1,300 jobs, to 448,800 jobs, a 2.9% decline, in November, the latest period available. But looking at the year-over-year data, CPA firms actually added 20,300 new jobs, rising to 448,800 positions, a 4.7% expansion.

And tax preparation services continue to gear up for busy season, adding 10,500 workers, or 24.7%, in November, for a total of 53,000 employed. To be sure, the 53,000 figure is 24,500 less than the year-ago 77,500, but employment in tax services doesn't usually peak until February.

Payroll services held up relatively well through November, finishing at 176,900 jobs, up marginally from the month before figure of 176,300 and down only slighty from the year-ago 177,700. But reports from PayChex and ADP are not encouraging.

The rest of the accounting services industry ended November with 236,700 jobs, only minimally down from the month-before 237,200 and the year-ago 238,800.

Source: DOL