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RIBA report: Workload and staffing forecasts both on the up

Aukett Swanke London Studios
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The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index shows confidence has returned to pre-referendum levels, writes Adrian Dobson

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index saw a further significant increase this month, rising to +24 in January 2017, up from +17 in December 2016. Overall confidence about future workloads have now recovered to the levels it was at before the EU referendum.

In terms of geographical analysis, London practices (balance figure +15) did not report any change and remain relatively cautious about future prospects. However, practices located in the north of England (balance figure +48) saw a big jump in confidence. Wales and the West (balance figure +28) and the south of England (balance figure +27) were also optimistic about medium-term workloads.

Analysing the January data in terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff), with a balance figure of +38, and medium-sized practices (11-50 staff), with a balance figure of +50, remain more upbeat than small practices (1-10 staff), with a balance figure of +19, but all practice size categories stayed positive about future work prospects.

The employment market for salaried architects should remain healthy into the spring

In terms of different work sectors, the commercial sector workload forecast returned to an upward trajectory, rising to +8 in January, up from +4 in December. The private housing sector was also on the up, standing at +22 in January compared with +20 in December.

The public sector workload forecast recovered a little this month, rising to -6 in January from -8 in December but remains trapped in negative territory, with little sign of real confidence in any significant uplift in public sector workloads. The community sector forecast fell marginally this month, down from +2 to +1.

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index recovered strongly this month, rising to +8 in January 2017 from +1 in December 2016.

Of the practices surveyed, 94% expect their permanent staffing levels to stay the same or increase over the next three months, suggesting that the employment market for salaried architects should remain healthy into the spring.

This month it was again medium-sized practices, with a balance figure of +27, that were the most positive about future staffing levels, but large practices appeared to throw off some of the caution they had shown before Christmas, returning a balance figure of +25. Small practices with a balance figure of +4, remain the least confident about their ability to increase staffing levels in the medium term.

Practices continue to be positive, particularly those focused on the private housing sector

Commentary received from our participating practices continues to be predominantly positive, particularly among practices focused on the private housing sector.

The picture also remains fairly positive if a little more cautious in the commercial sector. Opinions seem to vary widely as to whether the decision to leave the EU will have a significant economic impact that affects the work of architects in the medium and long term; a case of the jury still being out of the room.

Adrian Dobson is executive director members at the RIBA and the author of 21 Things You Won’t Learn in Architecture School.  A full copy of the RIBA Future Trends Survey monthly report is available online.

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