The Outlook for Design Professionals: Peaks and Valleys

Can you say “mixed bag?” We knew you could.

If you want to know what the conditions are like in any professional field, ask the experts – the ones in that field. And according to the survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, business conditions for the first quarter of 2018 reflected a mixed picture for professional .

The survey, conducted by ASLA’s Business Quarterly survey, indicates that the outlook for the profession remains generally positive, in that inquiries for new work and plans to hire jumped.

But – and of course there’s always a BUT — billable hours went down. The good news? A five-year comparison of survey results shows that numbers for the first quarter are well within range and even surpassing some previous trends.

The survey found 75.3 percent of responding firms reported stable to significantly higher billable hours for the first quarter of this year, a drop from the 82.4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017. The result is well within range of what had been reported for the first quarters of 2017 (75.8 percent). 2016 (80.8 percent), 2015 (82.0 percent) and 2014 (72.0 percent). This comparison suggests that the drop in billable hours for the first quarter of 2018 may be just a temporary deviation.

The numbers were brighter for inquiries for new work—85.1 percent of respondents said their firms received stable to significantly higher inquiries, which is an increase over the 84.8 percent reported for the fourth quarter of 2017. This number is well within range for what had been reported for the first quarters of 2017 (85.4 percent), 2016 (80.4 percent), 2015 (85.3 percent) and 2014 (80.2 percent).

The survey found that year to year, 78.3 percent of firms reported that billable hours were stable to significantly higher, a jump from what had been noted for the first quarter of 2017 (73.3 percent). This number is higher for the year-to-year reporting from 2016 (75.7 percent), and 2014 (76.0 percent). It is less than what had been reported for the first quarter of 2015 (80.5 percent).

Year to year, 84.7 percent of respondents said that first quarter inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher, about the same as what had been reported for the first quarter of 2017 (84.1 percent). It is higher than what had been reported for the first quarters of 2016 (81.1 percent), 2015 (83.2 percent) and 2014 (83.4 percent).

The full survey results are available here.

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