The Top Ten U.S. Cities for Financial Services Jobs

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You wouldn’t know it by all the news clippings, but financial services is one of the hottest job sectors in the U.S. Sometimes it’s hard to tell because the majority of the hiring isn’t happening on Wall Street. It’s the corporations and accounting firms that are swallowing up the lion’s share of the talent, contributing to just a 4.5% unemployment rate in the financial activities sector, the lowest rate in any industry.

The market has been particularly strong over the last six months, according to Jodi Chavez, vice president at Accounting Principals, a nationwide staffing firm that places business analysts, tax professionals, controllers, CFOs and other financial pros. Companies were hiring last year, but mostly on a temporary or contractual basis, she said. Now, much of the hiring is for full-time employees.

“Companies knew the work was there last year, but they didn’t know how long it would last. Their confidence was a little shaky,” Chavez said. “Now, with economic signs improving, companies are filling their needs with permanent employees.”

Over the last six months, roughly one-third of all hires made through Accounting Principals were for newly-created positions, a huge spike from previous years when the vast majority of hires were backfills, according to Chavez. The greatest demand is for financial analysts and controllers, she said.

So where are all these people being hired? The major cities mostly, but maybe not the ones you’d think. Accounting Principals just put together its annual list of the ten cities that are doing the most hiring in the financial services sector. The firm relied on the number of job orders that clients placed in each city over the last six months to create the report.

Dallas, TX

Much of the financial services hiring that’s happening in Dallas is in the energy sector and other industries that support energy. Right now, all sectors within energy are hot, including oil and gas, production and exploration, shale plays, energy trading, utilities, oilfield service, and energy related technology.

There’s a heavy need for finance and accounting professionals in both the corporate accounting/shared services and in the operations sectors of these corporations. And you don’t need experience working in the energy field to find finance or accounting work in Texas. “The skills are very transferable,” said Chavez.

Houston, TX

Houston hosts a large concentration of Fortune 500 companies across several different sectors, although energy and real estate are especially hot.

With companies closely monitoring their operating expenses, several large businesses have relocated to Texas for the tax incentives and cost of living, Chavez said. “The pay versus the cost of living is some of the best you’ll see,” she said.

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco hosts the largest number of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. Its close proximity to Silicon Valley and its ultra-wealthy residents help create banking jobs in lending and wealth management as well as finance and accounting jobs at funky start-ups and large corporations. Employment numbers were up more than 4% in San Francisco in 2012.

Salaries in San Francisco are among the top in the nation, according to Accounting Principals, and bidding wars for top candidates can be fierce. The job market there is aggressive and candidates often have several offers to choose from when considering their next new job.

Irvine, CA

Irvine didn’t crack the top ten last year yet moved all the way to fourth in this year’s rankings. The California city has a high concentration of Fortune 500 Company headquarters and has recently seen a host of companies in commercial real estate, bio tech and hospitality move their corporate offices to town.

New York City & Long Island

Wall Street may be shrinking, but New York still churns out plenty of finance and accounting positions. Industries like healthcare, non-profit, real estate, advertising/media, retail and insurance are hiring controllers, CPAs and other finance professionals. New York was third on last year’s list. “The cost of living is a little challenging,” Chavez said. Indeed, it is.

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Atlanta, GA

Helped by its low cost of living and proximity to an international airport hub, Atlanta has become a top destination for Fortune 500’s and regional offices. Companies specializing in IT, manufacturing and commercial/residential building are hiring plenty of financial specialists.

Seattle, WA

Another newcomer to this year’s rankings is Seattle, home to several large multinational organizations and the accounting firms that support them. Local firms are particularly desperate for candidates with experience in both private and public accounting, according to the recruiting firm.

Richmond, VA

Richmond offers a mix of old and new. Legacy firms specializing in financial services, banking, insurance, healthcare, as well as federal government, call Richmond home, as do several start-up companies. Richmond is a very well-educated and entrepreneurial market, says Chavez.

Chicago, IL

With Chicago’s diverse mix of industries, accounting and finance professionals who are able gravitate towards whatever sector may be hot at the moment do especially well, according to Accounting Principals.

It’s also home to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the Chicago Board of Trade, providing hope for traders specializing in the derivatives and futures markets who are struggling finding work in New York.

Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix is the third city to make the 2013 list after failing to do so the year before. It’s hosts several banks and credit card companies that moved for the low cost of doing business, Chavez said. Phoenix is “small but stable.” Anyone with accounting experience at the Big Four is in great shape.

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