The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index bounced back strongly in January 2016, rising to +29 (up from +15 in December 2015).
Increased workload optimism was shown across most of the UK, with the South of England (balance figure +38) showing particular strength and only Scotland (balance figure –25) in negative territory.
Large practices (51+ staff) remain the most positive about future prospects (balance figure +50); small practices (1–10 staff, balance figure +29) and medium-sized practices (11–50 staff, balance figure +25) similarly expect workloads to increase over the next three months.
Private housing continues to be the primary growth area for the profession, with the sector forecast rising to +30 (up from +20 in December 2015). The commercial sector workload forecast increased to +14 in January (up from +9 in December). The public sector workload forecast also saw a healthy uplift, standing at +7 in January (up from +1 in December). The community sector forecast has not yet found positive ground, standing at zero.
In this quarter, practices indicated that the rate of workload growth has slowed compared with the same quarter 12 months ago but remains healthy at an annual rate of 3%.
The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index rose slightly this month, standing at +10 in January 2016 (from +9 in December 2015). Medium-sized practices were the most positive about future staffing levels, reaching a balance figure of +31, compared with large practices and small practices (balance figures of +25 and +8 respectively).
Practices indicated that they are now employing 3% more staff than they were in January 2015, suggesting a buoyant employment market for salaried architects. Only 2% of practices expect to have fewer staff three months from now.
RIBA Executive Director Members Adrian Dobson said:
“As we entered the New Year confidence seems to have been renewed somewhat, with a number of our practices reporting an increase in enquiries in that month.
“The RIBA Future Trends survey commenced seven years ago, and from January 2009 to January 2013 it consistently recorded decreases in the overall value of architectural work in progress. However, we have now seen eleven quarters of continual workload growth, which despite some cooling off in its rate is nevertheless still a healthy 3% per annum.”
“We continue to receive feedback on issues that impact practices, including difficulties in ensuring prompt payment of fees, the complexities of public procurement processes, and slow performance by some local planning authorities. Whilst a small number of practices have reported recruitment difficulties there does not yet appear to be a clear skills shortage.”