The Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) monthly Future Trends Workload Index continued to recover in January, rising further from +8 in December 2017 and rebounding back to +12 in January 2018. In January 2018, practices reported a 4% drop in the value of work in progress compared with January 2017. This is the first annualized fall in the value of work in progress since April 2013.
"Commentary received from our participating practices continues to suggest a steady market despite the fall in our quarterly figure for the value of work in progress," said Adrian Dobson, RIBA Executive Director Members. "While London, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales seem slightly more pessimistic, practices generally seem to have entered 2018 with an uplift in confidence. A number of practices interestingly noted a reduction in the number of CVs received from job applicants, particularly from EU architects, an undoubtable result of the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations."
London continues to be the most pessimistic about medium term workloads, with a balance figure of -14. Scotland and Northern Ireland also remain quite circumspect with balance figures of zero. By contrast, practices in the South East returned a balance figure of +39, the Midlands and east Anglia a balance figure of +25 and practices in the North of England +18. There seemed to be more anxiety in Wales and the West however, who returned a balance figure of +6.
Analysing the January 2018 data in terms of practice size, there was only limited variation this month. Large practices (51+ staff) returned a balance figure of +14, medium-sized practices (11 - 50 staff) also returned a balance figure of +14, and small practices (1 - 10 staff) a balance figure of +11.
In terms of different work sectors, it was a mixed picture this month. The private housing sector workload forecast remains the most positive of sector forecasts and continued its upward momentum, rising to +13 in January 2018 up from +9 in December 2017. However, the commercial sector workload forecast moved in the opposite direction, with a balance figure of +1 in January 2018 down from +8 in December 2017.
The community sector workload forecast (balance figure -1) and the public sector workload forecast (balance figure -4) both remain the weaker, with no overall growth predicted in the medium term.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index was unchanged this month, remaining at +5 in January 2018. Large practices (51+ staff) with a staffing balance figure of +29 are more confident about their ability to increase staffing levels in the medium term than medium-sized practices (11 - 50 staff) with a balance figure of +9 and small practices (1 - 10 staff) with a balance figure of +4.