Confidence about future work prospects and staffing levels down

Architects’ confidence in future work prospects has crashed to the lowest level since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, according to the latest figures from the RIBA.

The monthly Future Trends survey also showed confidence about future staffing levels dropped to the lowest level since September 2012 with medium-sized practices the most cautious.

Figures from November’s survey show confidence about future work prospects fell from October’s +17 into negative territory with a figure of -1. London practices are the most pessimistic with a balance figure of -17, the lowest this year. Confidence among London architects has yo-yoed up and down in the second half of 2017 with a balance figure of -4 in October, +7 in September and -6 in August.

Confidence about future work prospects is much higher outside the capital. The north of England, at +7, and the Midlands and East Anglia, at +18, are the most optimistic, although these scores represent a significant drop on October’s data. Nationally, medium-sized practices are the most pessimistic about future work prospects.

Confidence about all market sectors took a tumble in November with housing slumping to +4 from October’s +18 and the commercial market falling into negative territory from October’s +5 to -3.

Architects are the most pessimistic about work prospects in the public sector, which has a balance figure of -10, down from October’s -1.

The RIBA described the figures as ”a little to the downside in general”. It added that workloads appeared to be mixed, with some practices reporting steady workloads but others seeing a reduction in new enquiries.

Adrian Dobson, the RIBA executive director for members, said sentiment had been driven down by uncertainity about the economic outlook, pressures on fees and Brexit. He said: “Many of our larger practices have cited uncertainty over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations leading to caution on the part of clients.

“However, we shouldn’t read too much into a single month’s data and these returns pre-date the decision that the Brexit talks can move to phase 2. My biggest concern is the drop in the private housing forecast. RIBA will need to keep a close eye on that in the New Year.”