It’s no secret that Houston’s job market has been on a wild ride these last few years. While the local economy is diversified beyond oil and gas, a slowdown in this industry will still impact the wider job market. At Lucas Group, I specialize in Accounting and Finance talent placement, giving me a front row seat to Houston’s evolving job market on everything from average salary offers to in-demand skill sets. One thing I always tell my job candidates: a lot can change in a year!

In early 2016, for example, many Houston job seekers were grateful to even receive an offer– despite the fact these offers were averaging 40 to 50 percent lower than 2014 salaries. Today, the job seekers I work with are receiving multiple competitive offers. While salaries haven’t quite rebounded to 2014 numbers, they’re already 25 percent higher than this time last year and many include robust benefits packages.

Wondering what the Houston job market has in store for 2017? These are three trends to watch:

Small companies are hiring big.

In 2016, we saw a continued slowdown in the energy sector. While larger companies focused on mergers and acquisitions to streamline operations, entrepreneurs took advantage of this changing market to found smaller companies. These smaller companies continue to be in strong growth mode and are eager to hire individuals with specialized skill sets.Last year I placed the ninth hire at one startup and the twelfth hire at another startup– both businesses have now grown to more than 50 employees in less than 12 months. These startups need excellent CPAs with in-depth industry knowledge. Initially, since their teams were smaller, the startups needed that one “perfect hire” who could handle all their accounting needs. Now, these same startups are coming back to us as they grow their departments. For example, the company where I placed the twelfth hire is now building out its IT infrastructure and looking to hire multiple IT professionals.

Energy is recovering slowly but surely.

How to gauge if the energy sector is strong? Keep an eye on upstream hires. Upstream positions are jobs related to oil exploration and production. When the oil and gas Industry starts to hit a down cycle, these upstream positions are the first to go. After all, if there’s no extraction happening then there’s also no need for operational accounting positions.Recently, we’re starting to see these operational accounting roles return, along with positions like auditing and property management. Technical accounting positions are also in demand. Individuals who can be a jack-of-all-trades are already getting multiple offers. Keep an eye on energy-related jobs to come back even stronger later this year.

Six-figure management roles are returning.
The return of upper-tier managerial roles is a sign that the oil and gas industry is starting to recover and the Houston economy is getting stronger. When companies need to hold the line on costs, experienced controllers are often the first to go. Companies prefer to hire someone with less experience that will only cost them a $60,000 salary rather than retaining their experienced hire that costs them a $140,000 salary. Now, we’re starting to see these six-figure managerial roles return as companies once again feel comfortable investing in top talent.

Curious how the energy sector recovery could affect your job options in 2017? For more information on Houston job opportunities and in-demand skill sets, contact me at CMeade@lucasgroup.com.


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