Where Is Pay Rising? Try Accounting, Finance, IT

By Emily Laermer

Oct. 12, 2011

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Oct. 12 that the number of job openings decreased in August—the first time in four months that has happened. But some companies are still hiring in this economy—and even hiking employee pay for next year.

Employees in accounting, financial services and information technology companies are seeing an average 3.5 percent increase in pay, both nationwide and in New York, according to a 2012 salary forecast released by Robert Half International Inc.

“It’s a tale of two unemployments,” said Keith Feinberg, Robert Half’s director of permanent placement services in midtown Manhattan. “People think people aren’t hiring, but there is tremendous hiring going on. There is a drought of highly skilled, specifically talented people.”

Positions that require more credentials, like certified public accountants and financial analysts, are seeing the biggest increases in their salaries. The starting salary for a tax servicer in a large public accounting firm in New York City, for example, will be $81,075 next year, up 3.4 percent from 2011. The national average will be $57,500, up by the same percentage. New York’s average is higher because of cost-of-living calculations.

The industries that are seeing the biggest jumps in their salaries are the ones that, not surprisingly, have the lowest unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for accountants and auditors is just 3.4 percent compared with the overall 9.1 percent.

Compensation in financial services is increasingly relying more on base salaries and less on bonuses than in the past. While salaries are rising, Wall Street bonuses declined by 8 percent last year.

As competition increases for each job—there are 4.6 unemployed people for every job, the Labor Department said—being versatile has become more important. One trend that Feinberg has noticed is that companies are hiring one employee to do multiple positions.

“As people have cut workforces and work to get the most efficiencies out of individuals, employees have learned to do more,” he said.

Emily Laermer writes for Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email

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