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Big practices' fears overshadow grass-root optimism says RIBA

The UK’s largest practices remain uncertain about their future, according to the latest monthly results of the RIBA’s Future Trends survey

February’s figures shows that, while smaller outfits were feeling ‘cautiously optimistic’, the country’s leading firms remained worried about the stability of workloads.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice, said: ‘Large practices are the least confident about future workloads, perhaps reflecting increasing concern about the likely impact of future public spending cuts upon government capital programmes, but smal-l and medium-size practices remain cautiously optimistic.’ 

Despite improvements in forecasted workload by small and medium practices across both the private housing and public sectors, poor progress has been made in terms of levels of underemployment and staffing levels, compared to January’s results.

Although there was a very small increase in the number of practices expecting staffing levels to increase (from 5 per cent in January to 7 per cent in February), this was overshadowed by the greater number of firms expecting staff levels to decrease (16 per cent in February, compared to 12 per cent in January).

Twenty-eight per cent of respondents stated that they were personally underemployed in February, a rise of two per cent compared to January.

Dobson added: ‘The second Future Trends Survey of 2010 continues to paint a mixed picture, with clear improvements in some areas of the profession, and less optimism in others.

‘Overall private housing, now showing a balance figure of +18, is still seen by practices as offering the best prospects for future growth’.

‘[However] No sector has yet seen a sustained trend of rising optimism.’

He added: ‘Many of our practices reported that the imminent election is having a “wait and see” effect on many clients and architects.’

The latest RIBA figures come as the Government announced that unemployment among architects is continuing to fall – now down to 1,385 on benefits compared to a peak of 2,055 in August 2009.

The complete results of the survey are available to view on the RIBA website.

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