Hiring

Vault 2020 Firm Rankings: Culture, Leadership, Relationships with Supervisors, and Work/Life Balance

Hey, guys. Hope you all had a nice, relaxing holiday weekend. As you know, Mondays after a holiday weekend suck, especially if you hate your job. But there are accounting professionals out there who were probably champing at the bit to come to work today because they actually enjoy being there and being around their […]

AICPA Trends Report Finds Enrollment in Master’s Programs, Hiring by CPA Firms Taking a Breather

The AICPA released its much anticipated 2017 Trends In the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits (“AICPA Trends” or “TSAGDPAR” for those of you who can’t resist an acronym) report today, and it shows two major developments: 1) A dropoff in enrollment for master’s in accounting programs; 2) Slower hiring […]

Hiring Watch ’15: KPMG ‘Lou Wants You

KPMG plans to hire 175 IT professionals in St. Louis. The positions "will range from entry level to management, will be part of KPMG’s national technology organization." So if you know anyone looking for an internal IT job, with an accounting firm, who wants to live in St. Louis, then I guess you should let […]

If No One Else Will Hire You, Maybe You Should Call Deloitte

This is from Jim Moffatt, Chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting, as written in The Hill: "That’s why, in January 2014, my organization, Deloitte, joined more than 300 companies – including 20 members of the Fortune 50 – in signing the White House’s Best Practices for Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed. We did this […]

It Takes Four to Five Weeks to Fill Vacant Finance and Accounting Positions

According to new survey results published today from Robert Half Finance & Accounting, it takes an average of four weeks to fill open staff-level accounting and finance jobs and five weeks for management-level positions. But hiring managers need to move fast not only because it can be challenging to be short-staffed during that stretch, but because top candidates […]

Accounting Grads are More in Demand Than Ever, But When Does it End?

Like most topics, we've discussed this ad nauseam but it's a slow Tuesday so why not attack it again? Here's our jump off point from CPA Trendlines: Bolstering reports of a suddenly surging profession with a high demand for top talent, CPA firms are hiring a record number of graduates. At the same time, the […]

Should You Put Your Home Address on Your Resume?

Came across this interesting bit on AvidCareerist via Lifehacker and thought it worth sharing with you all if for no other reason than to discuss: You might not have thought about it, but in-house recruiters know that people with long commutes have more stress and often eventually quit “because of the commute.” If you quit, […]

Robert Half’s Guide To Getting Hired in 2014 (Or, Alternatively, How Not to Totally Blow It)

Robert Half recently posted some rules for getting hired this year, most of which should be really obvious to anyone with even 3/10ths of a functioning brain but hey, I guess we need to cover all the bases. DO Be prepared for the interview: Research the company and explore its website and social media presence. Here you will […]

Accounting Career Conundrums: The Path to Becoming an International Accountant of Mystery

This week, a newb discovers GC and solicits career advice. Which is pretty much every day around these parts. If you just happened to Google the right combination of words to land in our lap and need career advice, first please look around a little to see if your question has already been asked. Then, […]

According to the Results of This Survey We’ve Been Waiting For, CPA Execs Are Less Optimistic on the Economy

Disappointingly, I snoozed through the alarm I set for 6:59 AM and therefore I completely missed the release of this information I have been waiting anxiously for since they told me to start waiting anxiously for it on Monday. BUT HERE IT IS, the AICPA Economic Outlook Survey: NEW YORK (Dec. 5, 2013) – Business […]

Deloitte’s Ability to Recruit Talent Not Affected By New York Ban Because, You Know, These Things Happen

Deloitte plans to hire about a gajillion people this year. If you don't believe me, just ask them! Even if the humblebragging gets a little old, jobs = good, so we (the royal kind) should all be grateful that the likes of Deloitte, EY, et al. are trying to solve the unemployment problem all by themselves. […]

Ever Wonder What Accounting Recruiting Seminars Look Like? Here You Go

The following slides were sent to us from a reliable source who works within public accounting in a capacity that does not involve actual accounting. Call that talent acquisition if you'd like, all we know is that our source sat in on an actual seminar about recruiting talent that included these actual slides. I don't […]

(UPDATE) Can Anyone Make Sense of Ernst & Young’s Hiring Numbers?

I’ve been out of the numbers game for awhile now but for the life of me, I can’t figure out just how many people Ernst & Young will be hiring off campus for this year. Or is it last year? The firm put out a press release yesterday that states that it “will hire approximately 5,000 students from campuses across the US in the 2010-2011 academic year.” That’s all fine and good but it’s different from the report in CNN back in March that we told you about that said “It’s looking to hire 7,000 employees from college campuses — 4,500 full-time and 2,500 interns […] in 2011.”


That report also stated that “campus recruits are up 20%,” but yesterday’s press release said “campus hiring [increased] 25 percent from last year.”

All told, E&Y and the rest of the Big 4 are hiring lots of people but the numbers don’t quite add up. The nice folks at E&Y are trying to help me out, so I’ll report back when I’ve got some answers.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed by an E&Y spokesperson that “numbers referenced in the release are for the US, whereas the numbers cited in the Fortune article are for the Americas.” To clarify, the “Americas” includes the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean.

[via Ernst & Young]

If You Believe the AICPA, Hiring Is Looking Good

Sometimes we get job reports from certain mainstream media outlets that shall remain nameless that look a tad suspect but in the case of this info from the AICPA, I think we can safely rely on the findings.

Here’s the good news via the Journal of Accountancy:

On the demand front, hiring is back on the upswing after decreasing from 2007 to 2008. In 2007, the total number of accounting hires was 36,111. That dropped to 25,488 in 2008 but climbed to 33,321 in 2010. A large portion of that increase was in firms with fewer than 10 CPAs on staff. Firms of that size increased their hiring projections from 11,432 in 2008 to 16,342 in 2010 (see Exhibit 1).

In terms of the types of positions CPA firm new hires were recruited to fill across firms of all sizes, accounting and auditing still commanded a narrow majority at 51%; followed by taxation at 25%; other at 16%; and information technology at 8%.

The accounting and auditing share of new hires was down from 60% in 2007, with the declines coming from firms with 50 or more CPAs. Hiring of new CPA graduates likewise decreased for information technology (down 5 percentage points from 13%). Tax showed a slight increase (2 percentage points) with the strongest gains coming from firms with fewer than 10 CPAs, while the largest growth since 2007 was in the “other” category.

The percentage of overall firms expecting to hire the same or more new accounting graduates than last year also is up—to 89% from 74% when the question was asked in 2008.

Here’s the next obvious question: are we talking about real, created-from-nothing jobs or are we talking about covering massive staff turnover popularized in public accounting by serf-like working conditions and disappointing compensation? Because hiring the same guy in four different firms doesn’t add up the same as hiring four new accounting grads. Duh.

Oh, and something else – where’s 2009? It doesn’t appear in any of the included exhibits, nor is it mentioned in the Journal of Accountancy article even once. The full survey, available from the AICPA’s website, doesn’t specifically mention the exclusion of 2009 in the survey methodology. We aren’t one for conspiracy theories (yeah, right) but it seems suspect that an entire year would just disappear and fail to get a single mention. I mean it was only two years ago.

We’ll dig into the survey results in more detail later, maybe once we track down 2009. Though not specifically mentioned in the above charts, the entire 2009 Trends in the supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report can be found here.

CFOs: We’ll Start Hiring Just as Soon as We Hit Our Unreachable Revenue Goals

Sound good to everyone?

Chief financial officers at large North American companies polled by Deloitte LLP said it would take a 20% surge in revenue before they felt comfortable adding to their payrolls.

The quarterly survey released Thursday found that nearly half of respondents would seriously consider adding employees if revenues rose 20%, but few would be moved by a 5% increase. A 10% bump in revenue would only be a major hiring consideration for 11% of CFOs.

Worse yet, perhaps, actual growth isn’t expected to reach such heights: respondents estimate top line growth at North American companies will be just 8.2% this year. (This is, however, a rosier picture than the fourth quarter when respondents forecast 6.5% for the coming year.)

And don’t bother trying to bait them with tax reform, revisions to the healthcare reform bill or payroll tax incentives because they’re all non-starters.

CFOs: Revenue Surge Needed to Boost Hiring [WSJ]

In Case You Forgot, the Big 4 Are Hiring a Small Army of People This Year

CNN/Fortune managed to dig up this corpse of a story: “Bean counters wanted: Why the Big 4 are in a hiring frenzy.”  This refers to the hiring bonanza that Deloitte announced last September that was followed by various announcements by the rest of the Big 4:

[T]here’s one unlikely place where the help wanted sign is up, big time: Accounting firms.

Deloitte plans to hire 17,000 professionals in the U.S. and India in 2011, according to Cathleen Benko, its chief talent officer. It’s seeking accountants, auditors, consultants, and IT staff. Hiring is split evenly between experienced and entry-level applicants.

Ernst & Young has stepped up recruiting. It’s looking to hire 7,000 employees from college campuses — 4,500 full-time and 2,500 interns — and 6,000 experienced staff, totaling 13,000 people in 2011, says Dan Black, its director of Americas Campus Recruiting. Experienced staffing is up 80% from last year and campus recruits are up 20%.

Both firms compete for talent against PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and large consulting firms such as McKinsey and Bain. The hiring confirms a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report that predicted employment in accounting and auditing would spike 22%.

For starters I don’t know why accounting firms are an “unlikely” place for the “help wanted sign” but don’t forget that this is the same outlet that told us that the firms were making money hand over fist back in the Fall of ’09. Also, why CNN/Fortune is now reporting Deloitte’s India’s hiring numbers as part of this story is a little confusing. Plus, if “hiring is split” between experienced and new hires that is a change in the breakdown from what was reported last September. Again, maybe the India numbers change things up a bit and I lost my 10-key long ago.

And we’ll also mention that the E&Y numbers are slightly better than what they initially reported last September so make of all these stats what you will, the rainbow and unicorn PR machine is in full force and CNN is happy to scoop them up spit them out.

Bean counters wanted: Why the Big 4 are in a hiring frenzy [CNNMoney]

New Robert Half Survey Reveals CFOs Will Need You to Go Ahead and Come in on Saturday

We’re not very good at math or statistics so perhaps our numbers are off a bit, but how do 89% of CFOs expect their firms to grow in the second quarter of 2011 while 85% also do not expect to add any new full-time accounting and finance professionals? It doesn’t take a mathlete to figure out what that means for those of you lucky enough to work for these CFOs, so you better get to slacking off now before they come down to your cube and kindly inform you you’ll need to go ahead and come in on Saturday.

Robert Half interviewed 1400 CFOs across the country for their Robert Half Financial Hiring Index and here’s what they came up with:

Most (85 percent) chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed for the Robert Half Financial Hiring Index said they expect to make no changes to their current staffing levels during the second quarter of 2011. Seven percent anticipate adding full-time accounting and finance professionals, while another 7 percent plan personnel reductions. The net 0 percent projection is down two points from the first-quarter 2011 forecast.

As businesses navigate the current economy, they remain optimistic about the outlook for their own companies. Eighty-nine percent of CFOs expressed confidence in their firms’ growth potential in the second quarter, up one point from the first-quarter survey.

Looking to relocate? Try the Pacific or Mid-Atlantic regions. Twelve percent of CFOs plan to add full-time accounting and finance professionals and 5 percent foresee cutbacks, a net 7 percent increase.

“Many Pacific-region companies, particularly those in the manufacturing and technology sectors, are rebuilding their teams to meet renewed demand for their products and services,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “In particular, firms are looking for skilled financial analysts to help them control costs and prepare for potential growth.”

In the end, a net 0 hiring projection is a lot better than previous recent surveys which were in the negative however we’d be remiss if we did not point out that the last time the survey showed a net 0 projection was for 3rd quarter 2008. And we all know how that particular period of time went.

What does this mean? New grads who are still waiting around for jobs can keep waiting, and more seasoned professionals who have been out of work for quite some time should probably just give up. Thanks for the great news, RH!

PwC Talent Leader Talks 2011 Hiring Spree, ‘Competitive’ Poaching, Autumnal Hues

As we’ve discussed, Big 4 firms are doing their part to marginally improve the frightening national unemployment number by embarking on epic hiring bonanzas in the coming years. FINS reporter Kyle Stock ran down Paula Loop, PwC’s Global and U.S. Talent Leader to find out the details on the firm’s plans and here are a few highlights:


Starting off – if unemployment doesn’t improve by 2012, Obama won’t be able to blame PwC:

KS: It seems like the firm is always hiring, how does that 45,000 compare with 2008 and 2009?

PL: It’s certainly higher than it has been in recent years. For the US, we’re hoping to hire around 10,000 this year. Those numbers are about 60% higher than they were for 2009 or 2010. About 6,000 of those are campus hires and 4,000 are on the experienced side.

Rumors of our acclimating to social media at a snail’s pace have been greatly accurate but only because we were waiting for The One:

KS: When PwC announced the LinkedIn [partnership], some articles said PwC has been slow to embrace social networking — is that accurate?

PL: Well, we were waiting for the right place at the right time. LinkedIn was a really good match for us.

Poaching, on the other hand, we’re all over that:

KS: I always try to ask about poaching. Is PwC hiring from competitors much these days?

PL: Because I think we are hiring more people, there’s more activity there. That’s always been a place we like to stay competitive.

Once you land those people, how do you keep them? Well, it helps if you come to grips with the fact that the last week of the year is pointless and you tell everyone to stay home. Secondly, you replace the old swag:

KS: Is PwC doing anything new to increase retention?

PL: We’ve had some great stuff on the retention front. We had an annual shutdown between Christmas and New Year’s where we closed our firm. That’s a terrific thing for us. I can tell you, you really get a chance to disconnect. Not only are you on vacation, but no one else is working. It gets people rejuvenated.

And we’re always doing stuff. Our new brand was a really great and exciting thing. We all have new bags for our computers that have our new colors for the new brand.

Right, the new brand! That was exciting. Sure, there might have been some kvetching at first but now that everyone has calmed down it’s really what makes us different from other firms:

KS: So how does the culture differ from a company like Deloitte?

PL: It’s hard for me to say on that, because I haven’t been a part of their culture, but I would say our new brand launch this fall really defines our culture. The colors are really vibrant and warm. We took that really long name and shortened it up. Our new logo can be really animated. I think that’s really what we’re trying to bring out in our culture.

PwC’s Paula Loop on Hiring 45,000 and the Firm’s Big Change [FINS]

PwC Doubling Headcount in China

All the other Big 4 firms have gotten some digital ink hyping their hiring plans for the next fiscal year and beyond. Before today, PwC had only mustered some rumored poaching which isn’t ideal PR.

The rest of the firms have already made it known that they are doing their part to create jobs here and abroad – Deloitte’s numbers are dumbfounding, KPMG’s spree includes Europe and asking its alumni come crawling back, while E&Y is picking up 6,000 recruits off campus.

P. Dubs finally gets puts some hiring news out there announcing that they will double their headcount in China over the next 5 years to over 20,000 employees.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP plans to double its headcount in China to more than 20,000 people within the next five years to meet rising demand for professional services as the nation’s companies become more international.

“We expect more Chinese companies to expand their presence overseas, and we’d like to be part of that growth,” Silas Yang, the firm’s chairman for China and Hong Kong, said today in a statement.

PwC to Double China Headcount to More Than 20,000 Over 5 Years [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Jim Quigley Is Still Talking About Deloitte’s Hiring Bonanza, Last Year’s BusinessWeek List

After his appearance on Fox Business, Quigs plugged himself in for 24 hours and then hopped over to Bloomberg to talk about the disappointing job numbers from last week but that at Deloitte, things are just swell.

Wherein We Try to Make Sense of Deloitte’s Purported Hiring Spree

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All right people, we’re going to talk about something that’s been bugging us all week – Deloitte’s big hiring spree announcement.

If you’ve already put the story right out of your mind, Deloitte Global CEO Jim Quigley announced earlier this��������������������would be hiring 50,000 lucky men and women a year over the next five years. At least that’s what we initially thought.

The PR machine was in full force as Quigs was mentioned in several publications all over the world touting the hiring plans in addition to big revenue numbers that might – MIGHT! – put them ahead of newly branded PwC for the biggest of the Big 4.


The problem is that the earliest report, from the Financial Times stated the following:

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, the global accounting firm, said on Monday that it would hire an average of 50,000 workers a year during the next five years as it revealed strong revenues.

[…]

Deloitte employs 170,000 people worldwide and said on Monday that it expects to add 250,000 new workers during the next five years as it looks to expand its services and geographic reach.

There is no room for misinterpretation there. The FT reported that Deloitte will add 250k new people to its firm. Nowhere in that report did they take into account (or think to ask) how those people would be added or how attrition, layoffs and partner retirement would affect those numbers. It was simply stated, “Deloitte is more or less adding the city of Lexington, Kentucky to its workforce.”

Our friends at FINS did some digging on these numbers and thought to ask a few more questions:

That’s almost 140 new hires a day.

By 2015, the company expects to grow to 225,000 total employees from its current roster of 170,000, accounting for standard industry turnover, retirements and natural attrition.

According to CEO Jim Quigley, Deloitte is hiring across all areas: consulting, tax, audit and financial advisory services. For FY 2011, Deloitte is looking to hire in all regions, but it expects growth in priority markets like China and India. Both recent graduates and experienced professionals will be targeted in the hiring bonanza.

[…]

In a shaky economy — in any economy, for that matter — it would perhaps seem foolhardy to add so many new hires. But, the firm has had a “successful year despite challenging economic conditions,” Quigley said. “Deloitte’s member firms have experienced growth, even double digit growth in certain markets, so we feel well-positioned to continue this trend in FY11.”

Okay, so whether the FT was credulous or just plain didn’t think to ask any follow up questions is unknown but we are still hella-skeptical about Deloitte’s math here. They’re still claiming that they will add 55,000 global employees in five years. The problem is, you didn’t bother telling anyone exactly how you plan to do that, other than the boilerplate CEO statements offered up.

Just for the sake of argument, say the firm does add the NET 55k warm bodies that it claims. It’s pretty obvious that not many of these jobs are coming to the United States. Plus, this won’t be purely organic growth.

Looking at Deloitte’s press release, it’s pretty obvious that consulting is the only practice growing and BRIC and emerging markets are the only regions where the firm is seeing meaningful growth:

Geographic results (aggregate, in USD):

Asia Pacific revenues grew 9 percent, making it the fastest-growing region for the sixth consecutive year. Member firms achieving growth in excess of 20 percent included Korea and India. Deloitte China grew 8 percent. Market share of the Fortune Global 500 grew by 2 percentage points in the Asia Pacific region. Deloitte member firms also served some of the largest IPOs in these markets.

The Americas revenues grew 4 percent. Brazil grew in excess of 20 percent. Deloitte United States grew 3 percent.

EMEA revenues declined 3 percent. Southern Africa grew 22 percent. The Middle East grew 15 percent.

Business and industry results (aggregate, in USD):
Audit revenue declined 1 percent while market share of the Fortune Global 500 grew by 1 percentage point.

Consulting revenue grew 15 percent.

Financial Advisory revenue declined 2 percent.

Tax revenue declined 5 percent.

Industry: Public sector revenues increased 38 percent compared to the prior year. Financial Services and Manufacturing were essentially flat, which represents a significant rebound from last year’s double-digit declines.

As far as the “public sector,” everyone is aware that these were boosted by last year’s acquisition of BearingPoint, so after that plateaus, then what? And speaking of acquisitions – something that Barry Salzberg has gone on record about – this could be part of the headcount boom equation but that’s still makes for funny math.

But increase your people by nearly a third organically? We’re not buying it, Deloitte. Not that you were selling it but you certainly got a lot of panties to drop with some hot rhetoric. Will they make the numbers? Who knows but there are at least three other firms out there that will be fighting you to the death for the business that will finance that growth. Good luck with that.

CFOs Return to Pessimism on the Hiring Front

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

More bad news on the hiring front, as CFOs say they are less likely to hire people now than they were three months ago.

According to the latest quarterly Robert Half Financial Hiring Index, six percent of chief financial officers said they plan to hire full-time accounting and finance employees during the third quarter of 2010.

In the prior survey conducted three months ago, seven percent of CFOs indicated they planned to add full-time accounting and finance employees during the second quarter. At the time, the folks at Robert Half celebrated the fact this was the highest hiring forecast since the first quarter of 2009.

Well, that party was short-lived.


Meanwhile, in the latest survey, nine percent of CFOs said they anticipate staff reductions. This is up from eight percent in the prior quarterly survey.

Add it up, and CFOs are more pessimistic now than they were three months ago. Not a recipe for bringing down the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate.

And accounting was supposed to be the good profession to go into because it is supposedly growing. Oh well.

Of course, the folks at Robert Half-an employment agency–put a positive spin on its results, asserting: “CFOs remain optimistic about the outlook for their businesses.”

The reality is – the job picture in this country is bleak and possibly getting worse. There is not one report out there that suggests companies are ready to unleash their HR departments.

In fact, the government’s recent report – which President Obama inexplicably predicted several days earlier would be strong – found that nearly half the unemployed have been out of work at least six months.

Even the teaching profession – long considered recession resistant and secure – is experiencing massive layoffs nationwide. Only a wage freeze movement is preventing even more teachers from losing their jobs.

Ultimately, companies need to see a connection between hiring more people and growing their business for them to decide to add to staff.

Increasing their taxes and piling more and more regulatory and policy mandates on them is certainly not going to entice companies to hire more people.

Lowering the Bar – How the Big 4 Can Raise Morale by Reducing Starting Salaries

Last Friday’s post by Caleb surrounding the Bonus Watch at Deloitte sparked a handful of intuitive comments from GC readers.

In case you didn’t read the post and subsequent commentary, Commenter Anon51 responded to the question “what do readers suggest firms do to retain practitioners” with the following:

1. treat every team member with respect

2. you can’t just force your team to work harder year after year with fewer people and a smaller budget

3. pay 4-7 year people more, pay new hires less, so it seems there is an incentive to working harder

4. reward your people with an extra day off without having to utilize vacation time, especially after a really busy month/audit

Point 3 is bolded because it resulted in the following comment from Guest:

“That’s a really good idea, and I’m not being sarcastic. There is no reason why new hires fresh out of college need to make $59k ($55k + $4k sign-on bonus), when they would happily work for $50k. Then, a $5k bump every year would be a reward, with maybe a higher bump during promotion years…Pay disparity is a bigger issue than actual pay.”

Well said, Guest and Anon51.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the Big 4 are constantly in cahoots with one another with regards to hiring benchmarks. So I propose that TBig4PTB get together and reassess their starting salaries. Behold, a template for all Big Wigs to follow:

1. Decrease starting total packages (salary + sign on) by seven percent. Lower the bar from the get-go.

2. Now is the time – blame the decrease on “a firm wide strategic response to the economic risks of being a major player in the professional services industry. Unofficial response – did you see the DOW sink like the Titanic the other day?!”

3. Spread gap created by initial decrease in salary over the next two years. This will create an artificial sense of accomplishment and praise.

4. Send internal emails stressing the “increase in raises for well deserving employees.” Everyone cheers.

5. In three years college graduates will not know the difference; this “decrease” becomes a non-issue.

Guest’s comment that “pay disparity is a bigger issue than actual pay” can become a non-issue with very little effort. Is this fair or ethical? Mehhhhh. I personally think it would be a slap in the face to those of you who have busted your humps and sacrificed career and personal opportunities all in the name of KPDeloitterhouseErnstMG. But it certainly wouldn’t be the most desperate attempt made by one of the firms in recent memory.

Raising morale – hardly. What are your thoughts?

How Huge Companies Are Dragging Down Our Economy

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

There are three pieces in the blogosphere today that touch on the fundamental problem with our economic system and why it will remain in a ditch, or just lurch onward to the next crisis, if it isn’t addressed.

And that is monopoly. I’ll leave aside the politics of that, which is addressed well enough by Thomas Franks over at the Wall Street Journal. In a nutshell, he warns of a return to feudalism, which I’ve done as well before.

What struck me as new was this analysis, which made me realize that the macroeconomic problem with monopolies is that they discourage hiring and capital investment.


After all, if you have a market locked up, your profits are so high that it makes no sense to take any risk on new investment. You just keep doing what you’re doing with the resources you have, hoping to maintain your barrier to entry. Oh sure, you expand, but only by acquiring competitors so as to keep your monopoly intact and your margins high.

Capital investment? Hiring? Forget about it. There’s no need. In fact, you want to reduce those things. That’s called synergy.

So where does expansion in GDP come from in that case? It derives more and more from speculation about where your stock price will go. Multiply that to the nth degree, a process known as financialization that’s been taking place for decades, and everything ultimately becomes geared to asset prices, with the bubbles and busts that inevitably ensue.

Yes, this description is woefully simplistic and won’t pass muster in a traditional macroeconomics course. There’s also plenty of room for argument as to what degree monopolies currently dominate the economy.

But it seems to me that this is the sort of analysis that’s required to restore the economy’s health. How else, after all, can one explain the paltry amount of hiring and capital investment we’ve seen since the late 1990s?

The point of such a discussion, of course, would be to come up with a solution to the problem. As cogent but unfashionable as its description of the problem may be, the Marxist view expressed in the Monthly Review article cited above is that it cannot be solved because of the irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of capitalism, and that political instability of the highest order is thus inevitable. Sorry, but no thanks.

The alternative: Vigorous antitrust enforcement, which, as Simon Johnson of MIT points out, is what the progressive Republicans pursued a century ago when financial trusts threatened to put a stranglehold on the entire system.

Indeed, breaking up monopolies, in banking and elsewhere, strikes me as the only viable means of growing the economy without creating a more dangerous asset bubble in short order.

Yes, you could conceivably do it instead through better regulation, and I’m all for that, but the back and forth we’ve seen in Washington over financial reform shows that better regulation is impossible until the economic power of the banks, and the political influence that goes with it, is sharply curtailed. The Federal Reserve and other bank regulators had all the authority they needed to keep banks in check, but failed to do so. Why? It wasn’t because they were dumb.