The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for November showed that confidence in workload among UK architects fell back slightly with the workload index returning back to +29. This is compared to +37 in October, which was the second highest ever balance figure. The highest balance figures were in Northern Ireland (+50) and the North of England (+46), areas with the RIBA state "were initially the slowest to indicate a return to growth." In addition, the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed remained at 12% for the second month running – the lowest figure since the survey began in January 2009. Practices report that they are currently employing 6% more year-out and post Part II students than they were twelve months ago.
The survey has continued to show signs that the recovery is being shared more equally across practices of all sizes. Small practices workload index dropped slightly, with a balance figure of +23 compared to +28 last month. Medium-sized practices reported a balance figure of +70 – up from October's +37 – and large-sized practices revealed a balance figure of +60, consistent with last month's result. According to the survey, they are "even more optimistic about the likely shape of their medium term order books." The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index stands at +11 in November, down from +14 last month. Only 4% of practices predicted a decrease in overall permanent staffing levels over the next quarter.
The private housing sector workload forecast fell back again to +26 in November but remains "the most buoyant of [the] sector forecasts." The commercial sector workload forecast continued its recent steady upward trend, nudging ahead by a single point to stand at +20 in November 2014; "clearly a sign that practices anticipate the growth this sector has experienced in 2014 to continue in the New Year." RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson believes that "we are beginning to see the first real evidence of practices encountering difficulties in attracting new staff with the right mix of skills and experience." He said that "this seems to be a countrywide phenomenon and not particularly confined to specific geographical locations."
Dobson continued: "There are also reports of an increasing gap between the salary expectations of applicants and potential employers. At the present time profit margins remain tight for many practices, as a legacy of the long recession which inevitably depressed fee levels, and this is clearly constraining the capacity of practices to increase salary offers."
The monthly survey is designed to “monitor the employment and business trends affecting the architectural profession throughout the period of economic downturn,” the data from which is analyzed by both the RIBA and the Fees Bureau. It is a “representative sample of the range of different practice sizes and geographical locations” with 1,600 British Architects from 226 firms contributing.
Read the reports in full here.