The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced the November results of its monthly Future Trends Survey, which was established in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architecture profession.
This month's results continue to highlight modest optimism in the profession, particularly in terms of workload and staffing. 39% of practices predicted an increase in workload in November, an 8% increase from 31% in October; however this indicator has been volatile over the last quarter and does not represent a sustained trend of confidence growth. This is reflected in the number of practices predicting a decline in workload, which increased from 16% in October to 20% in November. There was minimal improvement to levels of underemployment, with 72% of practices stating they were underemployed in November, compared to 70% in October.
For the first time, there were improvements to forecasted workload in all three of the work sectors monitored by the survey, particularly private housing. 36% of practices expected private housing work to increase, compared to 28% in October, which impacted upon the number of practices expecting it to stay constant (60% in October, compared to 51% in November.) Predictions for increases in workload within the commercial and public sectors showed minimal improvement; 20% of practices predicted an increase in commercial work in November, compared to 19% in October. Similarly, 19% of practices predicted an increase in public sector work in November, compared to 18% in October.
Changes in predictions for staff retention also reflected consistent improvement, with more practices predicting an increase in staff (10% in November, compared to 7% in October and 5% in September); those expecting a decrease dropped slightly from 13% to 11%. The number of women employed in practice also dropped from 21% in October, to 20% in November.
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 November 2009, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index is +19 (compared to +15 in October 2009) and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -1 (compared to -6 in October 2009).
"This month's figures paint a picture of cautious optimism amongst architects' practices for some increase in overall workloads in the short to medium term, and suggesting that workloads have at the very least stabilised," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice. "For the first time since the Survey began it is the larger practices, initially most heavily impacted by the recession, that are now most confident about an increase in future workloads, with two thirds of our practices who employ more than 50 staff now predicting more work in progress by the end of the next quarter. Practices based in London and the South of England are most optimistic about future workloads, whilst practices in Scotland and Northern Ireland are significantly more pessimistic in their assessment of future prospects. In terms of sector predictions, the private housing sector continues to show the most confidence of growth in workloads (+23), but overall there is less confidence about a return to sustained growth in the commercial and public sectors.
This month we again asked our practices about how many students (year-out and post Part 2) they are currently employing as compared with twelve months ago. The overall mean of 54% illustrates just how dramatically this group is being impacted by the recession."