The latest figures from the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) monthly Future Trends Survey reveal how almost a quarter of architects remain underemployed, and 23% expect their workload to fall.
This month's results highlight how more practices expected their workload to decrease, rising 4% from 19% in March to 23% in April. Practices of all sizes throughout the UK seem to remain in general very cautious about increasing their permanent staffing levels; the percentage of practices predicting a drop in staff levels rose from 12% in March to 16% in April, and those expecting staff levels to rise fell to 7% (8% in March). There has been no change in levels of underemployment; 26% of architects state that they are personally underemployed.
Both the private housing sector forecast (balance figure +9) and the commercial sector forecast (balance figure +1) remain in positive territory, but both have fallen back slightly this month in comparison with their levels in March 2011. The number of practices expecting a rise in private sector housing workload rose by 3% from 24% in March to 27% in April; the number of practices expecting less work grew from 13% in March to 18% in April. In the commercial sector, 18% of practices expected more work compared to 21% in March, whilst the number expecting a drop in workload fell by 1% to 17% (18% in March).
The public sector forecast (balance figure -22) continues to predict a declining workload; 31% of practices expected workload to drop compared to 26% in March, whilst 9% of practices expected a rise in public sector work in April, compared to 8% in March.
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 April 2011, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index remains at +8, and the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index is -9 (compared to -4 in March 2011).
"For the second consecutive month there has been no change in the overall RIBA Future Trends Workload Index, which remains at +8 in April 2011," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice. "It is of concern that the positive growth trend in this Index seen since December 2010 now appears to be somewhat running out of steam, with an increasing sense of uncertainty as to the future direction of travel for practice workloads. Practices in London (balance figure +18) and the South of England (balance figure +42) continue to be significantly more confident about their work prospects than those in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index for April 2011 is -9, falling from -4 in March 2011. Practices of all sizes throughout the UK seem to remain in general very cautious about increasing their permanent staffing levels. However, there is now some indication of greater confidence about taking on more temporary staff; when asked about hiring intentions for temporary staff our practices returned a balance figure of +7.
Anecdotal evidence received this month focuses on a number of familiar issues, including delays and uncertainties in the planning system, intense fee competition and a general consensus that the situation remains very unpredictable which affects confidence amongst both architects and their clients. Many respondents have noted the importance of practice reputation, whether based on their local profile or areas of sector expertise, as being of great importance in maintaining workloads."