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Northern Ireland least optimistic says RIBA survey

Practices in Northern Ireland are most pessimistic about future workloads, according to the latest RIBA Future Trends survey of UK architects

Firms in the country have been hit badly by the Republic of Ireland’s commercial property sector crash said the RIBA. The survey reported a ‘balance figure’, which gauges confidence, workloads and staffing levels’, of -40 in the province compared to +1 for the UK as a whole.

Last month fewer practices predicted UK-wide growth in commercial work, with 19 per cent of architects completing the questionnaire expecting a drop in the sector’s turnover.

Private housing emerged as an area of improvement with the number of architects expecting more work booming to 28 per cent in January from 20 per cent in December.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice, said: ‘The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index grew marginally in January 2011, from a balance figure of -1 in December 2010 to +1 this month. 

‘An emerging trend this month is that large practices (50+ staff) now seem to be detecting prospects of a return to growth, having returned a balance figure of +13 in January 2011.

‘The private housing sector forecast has increased from a balance figure of +3 in December 2010 to +12 in January 2011, and this remains the most buoyant of our sector forecasts. 

‘Small practices in particular seem reasonably confident that they will be able to continue to achieve new commissions in the bespoke residential market; the private housing sector remains the only one in which practices are on balance predicting an increase in workload over the next quarter.’

Nevertheless, 29 per cent of respondents continue to report under-employment, according to the survey. ‘[We] still see little evidence of any sustained improvement in the short-term employment prospects for salaried architects,’ said Dobson.

The number of architects claiming unemployment benefit rose slight last month after four months of decline, the latest NOMIS figures (graph, pictured) show.

There are now 1,120 people on the dole claiming they previously worked as architects. Of those claiming, 845 are male and 275 female.

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