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The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Causing Many Accountants (and a Whole Lot of Consultants) to Freak Out About Losing Their Jobs

OK, let’s talk about layoffs and accountants. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting dumpster fire that is the U.S. economy has quite a few capital market servants worried about losing their jobs. And some have taken to sites like Fishbowl and Reddit to voice their concerns.

The thing is, nobody knows what’s going to happen. The prevailing wisdom among those in public accounting is that the Big 4 firms and the like are going to forego bonuses and raises, implement hiring freezes, and even force partners to take pay cuts before they start laying people off.

A former PwC managing director, who worked at the firm during the financial crisis, told me yesterday via email:

PwC did that in 2008-09. No raises, no perf bonus, cut in ptr comp (iirc) but no mass layoffs.

Being a 55-y/o mg dir at the time (now retired) I’m grateful. Hope they do the same this time.

The publicly-stated reasoning at the time was that they wanted to be sure to have ppl on the bench and ready when the economy turned around…., ie not have to go hire a lot of new ppl. Not sure if the economy turned around as fast as expected.

EY was the first of the Big 4 to cancel performance bonuses this year in an effort to keep EYers employed through the pandemic, and it’s likely the other Big 4 firms will soon follow suit.

We even got a tip this morning that the executive directors and partners at PwC India are taking a 25% pay cut in March and raises will be delayed and are expected to be lower this year because of the pandemic. However, we weren’t told anything about layoffs at the firm.

Despite firms taking measures to avoid layoffs, accountants are still concerned, according to a recent survey of Fishbowl members. From March 13 to March 16, more than 17,000 verified professionals who use the Fishbowl app answered the question: Do you believe the coronavirus will result in layoffs at your company?

Overall, 54% of professionals believe that COVID-19 will result in layoffs at their company. Among the 2,373 accountants who use the platform and took the survey, four in 10 said there will be job losses.

  • Yes: 961
  • No: 1,412

The numbers are even higher among employees of consulting firms, like Deloitte and Accenture, with nearly six in 10 consultants who took the survey predicting layoffs.

  • Yes: 4,901
  • No: 3,597

Here’s a bar graph of the survey results by industry, courtesy of Fishbowl:

If there are layoffs at public accounting firms, most people on Fishbowl believe those who work in tax and audit will be much more safer than those who work in advisory.

But the last thing Adrienne and I want to write is a “Layoff Watch” article. We really hope everyone survives this crisis and stays healthy—physically, mentally, and financially.

Related article:

Bonus Watch ’20: EY Employees Aren’t Getting Performance-Based Bonuses, But Their Jobs Are Safe For Now