Optimism among architects is on the wane, with increasing numbers reporting a lack of work and fearing job cuts.

The latest Future Trends survey from the RIBA indicates that confidence within the profession is slipping, despite early signs of recovery over the summer.

The August results of the monthly report, established in January to monitor business and employment trends during the recession, found only one in five firms predict an increase in workload – compared to a third in July. Practices working in the public and commercial sectors were particularly gloomy. The private sector was the most optimistic, with less than 10% predicting a decrease in work.

Six in ten firms expect their work to stay constant, but 30% of the architects questioned admit they are underemployed, compared to 22% in July.

The number of practices anticipating job losses increased from 13% in July to 15% in August. However 80% of all practices expect staff levels to remain constant over the next three months, a slight increase from 76% in July.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice, said: “The trends from this month’s survey convey the current fragility of confidence in the architects’ profession.

The comments and anecdotal evidence submitted by our survey correspondents this month support some early evidence of recovery, but continuing nervousness amongst architects and reluctance of clients to confirm projects.”

The research found that larger firms, with 50 or more staff, are the most pessimistic about their prospects over the next three months. Small firms, with a workforce of less than 10, are the most confident. Practices based in the Midlands and East Anglia are the most positive.