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RIBA predicts double-dip recession

A double-dip recession is ‘almost certain’, according to the RIBA Future Trends Survey.

Practices anticipate an overall drop in workload over the next quarter and the RIBA Future Workload Index graph has indicated a double-dip recession is ahead. The outlook is revealed in the July 2010 results of RIBA’s survey, which was first instituted at the beginning of last year to follow business and employment trends in architecture.

There was an increase of three percentage points in the number of practices expecting workload to decrease, up to 28 per cent in July from 25 per cent in June.

Some 16 per cent of architects now believe staff numbers will decrease, one percentage point higher than the 15 per cent expecting a decrease in May and June, showing little prospect of a recovery in employment opportunities for salaried architects.

27 per cent of respondents also stated that they were personally underemployed in July (25 per cent in June, compared to 29 per cent in May).

The survey also revealed that practices continued to be markedly less optimistic about forecasted workload predictions across every sector, encompassing public, commercial and private housing. Almost half - 42 per cent - of practices expected a further decrease in future public sector workload; this is compared to just 38 per cent in June and just 25 per cent in May.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA Director of Practice said: ‘The overall sense is that the general election has not had the effect of improving confidence, with many clients still very reluctant to commit to capital programmes.

‘With interest rates remaining at an all time low, the bespoke, private residential sector remains buoyant in many locations, but some practices report little recovery in private sector multiple housing.

‘Many architects active in the residential sector are anxious about the impact of the proposed VAT increase. A number of practices which have managed to maintain workloads report that the value of projects, in terms of size and fees, is generally reducing, with consequent impact on profit margins and salary levels.

‘More specialist work, such as conservation, seems to be offering a safer haven.’

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