The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced the August results of its monthly Future Trends Survey, which was established in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architecture profession.
The trends emanating from this months survey present a less optimistic picture compared to July's results, both in terms of workload prediction and staffing. Practices predicting an increase in workload fell from 36 per cent in July to just 22 per cent in August, indicating a decline in practices' confidence about their work outlook. However more practices expected their workloads to stay constant, with 63 per cent in August compared to 45 per cent in July. This month 30 per cent of respondents also indicated that they were personally underemployed, compared to 22 per cent in July.
Predictions across the sectors also varied, with both public and commercial sectors seeing a decline in the number of practices expecting a growth in workload. Only 21 per cent of practices expected public sector work to increase, compared to 29 per cent in July, and 12 per cent of practices predicted work in the commercial sector to grow, compared to 16 per cent in July. The private sector was predicted to perform the most strongly in terms of workload growth with fewer practices anticipating a decrease (9 per cent in August compared to 14 per cent in July).
Changes in predictions for staff retention also reflected an overall decline in confidence, with more practices expecting staff levels to drop over the next three months. In August, only 4 per cent of practices expected an increase in staff, compared to 11 per cent in July. The number of practices expecting staff numbers to be cut increased 2 per cent, from 13 per cent in July to 15 per cent in August; 80 per cent of all practices expected staff levels to remain constant over the next three months, an increase from 76 per cent in July.
The statistical analysis of the survey enables the RIBA to regularly report on two key confidence tracking indices relating to future workloads and staffing levels. For August 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +7 (compared to +18 in July 2009) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -11 (compared to -2 in July 2009).
"The trends from this month's survey convey the current fragility of confidence in the architects' profession," commented Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practiceç. "The comments and anecdotal evidence submitted by our survey correspondents this month support some early evidence of recovery, but continuing nervousness amongst architects and reluctance of clients to confirm projects.
Larger practices (50+ staff) remain the most pessimistic about workloads over the next quarter, whilst smaller practices (10 or fewer staff) are the most confident group. In terms of the picture across the different UK nations and regions, practices based in the Midlands and East Anglia made the most positive returns this month. Each quarter we ask the practices in our Survey how many students (year out or post part 2) they currently employ as a percentage of the number they employed 12 months ago. The figure in August 2009 was 50 per cent, as compared with 55 per cent in May 2009, indicating that the situation for students seeking practical training employment remains very challenging."