Dec. 17, 2009 -- WASHINGTON -- Significant hiring won't begin at most U.S. companies until well into 2011, even though the U.S. economy will continue its modest recovery next year, according to professionals in the finance departments of U.S. companies.
The 2010 Business Outlook Survey released today by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) and underwritten by Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) shows that while more than a quarter of respondents indicate that their organizations will shrink their payrolls in 2010, 46 percent expect that their organizations' workforces will be stable in the new year.
When hiring begins, most finance professionals expect payroll growth to be modest at first. Of organizations surveyed, 25 percent anticipate returning to pre-recession staffing levels in 2011; 32 percent expect a rebound in 2012; and three out of ten do not expect their organizations ever to return their payrolls to pre-recessionary levels.
"AFP members have played a critical role in maintaining the financial stability of their organizations through the recession," said Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of AFP. "As we look ahead, AFP will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that legislative initiatives have a positive impact on potential job growth."
This is the sixth year in which AFP has surveyed its members in December to track their outlook of future business conditions.
Financial professionals are uniquely positioned to assess how business conditions will affect their organizations in the immediate and short-term, and they must make critical business decisions - including those concerning borrowing and investment - based upon those assessments. Because financial professionals work in a wide range of industries and in public and private organizations of varying sizes, AFP's survey results are accurate indicators of future business conditions.
Even if the recession might have ended by a textbook definition, nearly 90 percent of financial professionals surveyed believe that the U.S. economy has yet to enter a period of sustained economic growth. Fifty-one percent do not see economic growth beginning until the second half of 2010, and nearly a quarter do not see it happening until at least 2011.
Factors that finance professionals think will affect economic growth include consumer demand, the growing Federal budget deficit, rising health care costs and access to credit. Further, respondents agree that regulatory reforms might moderate future shocks to the economy, but these reforms also might come at a cost.
MORE CUTBACKS IF CREDIT REMAINS TIGHT
In the case of credit, survey respondents see only minor improvements in access to credit compared with this time last year. Although fewer organizations (18 percent) than in previous AFP surveys report that credit had become scarcer during the past six months, only 16 percent report that it had become more plentiful. Only a quarter of financial professionals expect their organizations' access to credit to improve in 2010.
If the ability to obtain credit does not improve by midyear 2010, then 55 percent of organizations expect to take additional actions to conserve cash, which might include:
• Reducing capital spending (68 percent)
• Freezing or reducing hiring (62 percent)
• Considering closing locations/offices (33 percent)
• Reducing current or planned inventory levels (25 percent)
• Delaying payments to vendors (23 percent)
• Tightening credit standards for trading partners (23 percent)
• Drawing on credit facilities that are still available to build cash (22 percent)
Any of these actions would be on top of the measures that 96 percent of organizations surveyed had taken since the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008.
"This has been a challenging time. Yet we are seeing the markets stabilize, and opportunities are emerging," said David Trotter, head of Treasury Management sales for Wells Fargo. "Credit is still top of mind, but looking ahead, financial professionals have become more efficient and better at controlling their cash due to the challenging environment."
RATE HIKES SEEN IN 2Q 2010
Also looking ahead, 59 percent of financial professionals anticipate a rise in the Fed funds target rate during the second half of 2010. Eleven percent of survey respondents believe the first rate hike will occur sooner - during the first half of 2010 - while 30 percent anticipate the first rate hike will not occur until 2011 or later.
ABOUT THE SURVEY
Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 11, the AFP surveyed U.S. financial professionals about current and expected business conditions in the U.S. The survey generated 1,014 responses from professionals holding a variety of positions within their organizations, including CFO, vice president of finance, treasurer and assistant treasurer. The results produce a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. The full survey report is available on www.afponline.org/research .
The Association for Financial Professionals ( www.afponline.org ) serves a network of more than 16,000 treasury and finance professionals. Headquartered outside Washington, DC, AFP provides members with news, economic research and data on the evolving world of treasury and finance, as well as treasury certification programs, networking events, financial analytical tools, training, and public policy representation to legislators and regulators. AFP is the daily resource for treasury and finance professionals. For more information or to ararnge to speak with an AFP subject expert, please contact PR@afponline.org
AFP's global reach extends to over 150,000 treasury and financial professionals worldwide, including AFP of Canada; London-based gtnews, an on-line resource for the treasury and finance community; and bobsguide, a financial IT solutions network.
ABOUT WELLS FARGO
Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified financial services company with $1.2 trillion in assets, providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgage and consumer finance through more than 10,000 stores and 12,000 ATMs and the internet (wellsfargo.com) across North America and internationally.