Washington, DC, February 11, 2008 — The majority of landscape architects remain busy despite trouble in the housing market, according to a survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). More than six in ten firms reported steady or increased work, and nearly four in ten firms planned to hire in the upcoming quarter. The survey asked quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries, and hiring plans, with 319 firms responding.
As with third quarter of 2007, the fourth quarter saw the majority of firms staying busy despite larger housing market troubles. Fifty-nine percent of respondents described their billable hours as either “well above average” (six percent), “slightly above average” (25 percent), or “average” (27 percent). Thirty percent said their hours were “slightly below average,” and 10 percent said “well below average.” When asked to compare Q4 2007 with Q4 2006, 61 percent said their hours were either “higher” (31 percent) or “about the same” (30 percent); 36 percent said that compared to 2006 their hours were “lower.”
Firms shared their outlook and concerns in the survey as well. One small Midwestern firm said its outlook for billable hours is “improving significantly,” while a midsized Northeastern firm said it has “just started receiving much larger commissions.” A large national firm said, “The housing market had a major effect on our backlog of work. We are currently developing more relationships with commercial developers.” Other firms spoke of their experiences with seasonal construction slowdowns, concerns about inflation and energy costs effecting profit margins, and drought-related problems.
New inquiries in Q4 2007 were similarly positive: six percent reported well above average inquiries, 19 percent reported slightly above, 31 percent reported average, and 44 percent reported their inquiries were down this quarter. When asked to compare Q4 2007 with Q4 2006, 56 percent said that their new inquiries were either “higher” (19 percent) or “about the same” (37 percent), while 40 percent said that compared to 2006 their inquiries were “lower.” A midsized Southeastern firm summed up its experience: “Given the state of the economy, we have been surprised about the seeming strong amount of inquiries.”
The strong job market for landscape architects also remained steady. Fully 38 percent of firms planned to hire in the first quarter of 2008, representing little change from those who planned to hire in the fourth quarter of 2007 (40 percent).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of landscape architects must grow by 16 percent by 2016 in order to meet growing demand for services. The survey asked firms how they are helping to grow the profession, and more than 40 percent reported they actively conduct outreach to school-aged children to promote careers in landscape architecture. The theme of National Landscape Architecture month in April will be “Discover Careers in Landscape Architecture.”