More than 300,000 U.S. accountants and auditors have left their jobs in the past two years, a 17% decline, and the dwindling number of college students coming into the field can’t fill the gap.
The exodus is driven by deeper workplace shifts than baby-boomer retirements. Young professionals in the 25- to 34-year-old range and midcareer professionals between the ages of 45 and 54 also departed in high numbers starting in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recruiters who have been luring experienced accountants into new roles say they are often moving into jobs in finance and technology.
The huge gap between companies that need accountants and trained professionals has led to salary bumps and more temporary workers joining the sector. Still, neither development will fix the fundamental talent pipeline problem: Many college students don’t want to work in accounting. Even those who majored in it.
Tyler Cowen: That talent is remarkably important. That we’re doing a poor job, misallocating talent. And there are a variety of ways, outlined in the book, we can do better. This book tries to be “the” talent book: a one-stop shopping guide to how to think about identifying talent.
Michael Chui: What are the macro implications of [the] lack of good matching? Is this a potential for accelerating productivity, for instance?
Tyler Cowen: We have slower economic growth when we don’t match talent well. We have a lower level of per capita income. When a recession comes, as was the case in 2008, labor markets adjust much more slowly. The consequences for human welfare are considerable.
The pay difference between those who stay and those who changed jobs is growing, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Job stayers, or people who stayed in their job for the past three months, increased their wages by about 4.7% as of June 2022. Meanwhile, those who switched jobs received a raise of 6.4%. The gap is the largest in two decades.
Workers are facing fast-rising prices on gas, groceries, rent and other essentials. Even in a tight labor market, many workers aren’t getting a large enough pay increase at their current job to keep up with inflation, say workers and economists who study the labor market. As a result, some Americans are reconsidering expenses they once considered affordable, while many also are looking for a new job with a bigger paycheck to keep up.
Prof. Yongseok Shin, an economics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, says inflation and the ability to get higher wages by changing companies are pushing many to move on. Some 47 million Americans have changed jobs in the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “I think the workers are paying a lot more attention,” said Prof. Shin. “They are comparing their wage growth with the headline inflation numbers.”
In health insurance, with the continual spike in Medicare, we forecast a huge shift towards this area and Medicaid in 2022, and beyond. With the way that the market has evolved, it’s possible that actuaries with experience in Medicare will be in-demand, especially as bid season is fast approaching. Alongside proficiency in risk adjustment, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) recently added a new exam for predictive analytics.
As always, for the property & casualty sector, the key modelling skillsets going into 2022 is R and Python. With the rise in cyber and ransomware attacks, this might result in a boom in cyber insurance and simultaneously the specialists, minimum of 2-3 years in underwriting, to better service this demand. In addition to fluency in modelling, designations from Associates of the Casualty Actuary Society (ACAS) and Fellowship of the Casualty Actuary Society (FCAS), has importance to employers and therefore significant currency in the market.
Despite significant changes in the economy since the onset of the Great Attrition (or what many call the Great Resignation), the share of workers planning to leave their jobs remains unchanged from 2021, at 40 percent. That’s two out of five employees in our global sample who said that they are thinking about leaving in the next three to six months.
However, the past year has revealed nuances of the larger trend:
Reshuffling. Employees are quitting and going to different employers in different industries (48 percent of the job leavers in our sample). Some industries are disproportionately losing talent, others are struggling to attract talent, and some are grappling with both.
Reinventing. Many employees leaving traditional employment are either going to nontraditional work (temporary, gig, or part-time roles) or starting their own businesses. Of the employees who quit without a new job in hand, 47 percent chose to return to the workforce. However, only 29 percent returned to traditional full-time employment.
Reassessing. Many people are quitting not for other jobs but because of the demands of life—they need to care for children, elders, or themselves. These are people who may have stepped out of the workforce entirely, dramatically shrinking the readily available talent pool.
Author(s): Aaron De Smet, Bonnie Dowling, Bryan Hancock, and Bill Schaninger
The number of candidates sitting for entry level exam P and exam FM decreased over the last decade. Figure 1 below shows the total attempts for Exams P and FM halving over the past decade.
This represents an average decline of 7% per year across the two exams. This shows a major change from 2013 when the Actuarial Profession was consistently ranked #1 in national job lists and the number of candidates sitting for exams was growing year over year. For reference, Actuary is currently ranked #20, behind software developer (#5) and data scientist (#6).
One hypothesis is that data scientists and similar job openings are drawing potential actuaries away from the profession. To investigate this question, we queried fifteen colleges, actuarial clubs, and their recent graduates to see if this trend was noticeable, with key learnings summarized below:
Candidates at schools with Society of Actuaries (SOA)’s Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) recognition are more than twice as likely to remain on the actuarial career path. Further, the strongest programs appear to attract other majors due to the top-tier program and resources
Recently established data science majors are pulling some students away from actuarial science and quite a few interviewees perceived that the popularity of the actuarial science program is declining
For international students, there is a general perception that it is harder to get an actuarial job that provides working visa sponsorship, while most data science jobs still provide sponsorship
The mixed results between the first two findings suggest that the strongest college actuarial programs are becoming stronger while schools with fledgling or small programs may be struggling. For example, actuarial career fairs tend to be successful only after achieving a level of scale so that they are well attended by both prospective hires and recruiters.
Last December, a student in professor Fang Hu’s partial differential equations class at Old Dominion University reached out with a problem Hu had never experienced in decades of academia. His pupil said he had just been offered a high-profile job, starting immediately, and might need some special accommodation to finish his course work.
“I got called by an NFL team,” Taylor Heinicke told Hu. “I’m going to be very, very busy.”
“I was like seriously? Really? Professional football?” Hu says. “‘He really takes this course very seriously,’ was my first reaction.”
Heinicke had bounced around the fringes of the NFL for years, but by last year he had bounced out so far that he went back to school to finish his degree. Then, in the span of a month, Heinicke went from taking the highest-level undergraduate mathematics courses at Old Dominion to playing quarterback for the Washington Football Team. He started a playoff game in which he nearly outdueled Tom Brady.
When Heinicke was the school’s quarterback from 2011 to 2014, he rewrote record books. He owns the all-time mark for most passing completions in a season in FCS history, and he even broke the record for all of Division I with 730 passing yards in a single game. (That was later surpassed by two quarterbacks. One of them was Patrick Mahomes.)
Heinicke’s success on the field at ODU was boosted by the same traits that led him to take engineering and math classes. His coaches found that their quarterback was both talented and capable of understanding things on a football field that other quarterbacks simply couldn’t.
Just days after Washington’s season ended, Hu heard again from his student. Heinicke finally had time to turn in his final exam.
BLUF is a military communications acronym—it stands for “bottom line up front”—that’s designed to enforce speed and clarity in reports and emails.
The basic idea is simple: put the most important details first. Don’t tease or delay your main point because people are busy and their time is valuable. And make it clear—life-or-death decisions could be made using your information.