ASLA Business Survey: Uneven Conditions for Landscape Architecture Firms

Landscape architecture firms are facing a subdued business outlook, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey for the second quarter of 2018. Based on the responses of 116 primary firm contacts, the survey indicates that billable hours remain a positive indicator of economic health. However, inquiries for new work and plans to hire declined.

A five-year comparison of survey results shows that numbers for the second quarter are well within range of previous trends. The survey is not intended to be statistically significant but instead provides a snapshot of the landscape architecture industry.

Fully 80.2 percent of respondents reported stable to significantly higher billable hours for the second quarter, a rise from the 75.3 percent reported for the first quarter. This value is on the low end of what had been reported for the second quarters of 2017 (85.1 percent), 2016 (82.7 percent), 2015 (86.7 percent) and 2014 (82.4 percent).

The story was the same for inquiries for new work. Some 81.7 percent of those surveyed reported stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work—below what had been reported for the first quarter (85.1 percent). It is about the same for what had been reported for the second quarter of 2016 (81.0 percent) but below 2017 (83.1 percent), 2015 (84.5 percent) and 2014 (84.7 percent).

Year to year, 77.4 percent of respondents reported that billable hours were stable to significantly higher, a drop from what had been reported for the second quarter of 2017 (80.8 percent). This value is also on the low end of the year-to-year reporting from the second quarters of 2016 (78.6 percent), 2015 (85.2 percent) and 2014 (81.3 percent).

Year to year, some 84.1 percent of respondents reported stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work. This number is greater than what had been reported for the second quarters of 2017 (82.6 percent) and 2016 (83.4 percent). It is about the same as the value reported for the second quarter of 2015 (84.9 percent), and less than what had been reported for the second quarter of 2014 (85.2 percent).

Some 53 percent of respondents from firms with two or more employees said they plan to hire during the third quarter of 2018, a sharp drop from the first quarter of 2018 (66 percent). This value surpasses the percentages reported for the second quarters of 2017 (52.3 percent), 2016 (51.2 percent), 2015 (48.1 percent) and 2014 (51.8 percent).

Key Survey Highlights

Compared to the first quarter 2018, your second quarter 2018 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 14.7%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 31.9%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 33.6%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 14.7%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 5.2%

Compared to the first quarter 2018, your second quarter 2018 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 14.8%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 36.5%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 30.4%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 13.9%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 4.4%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2017, your second quarter 2018 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 20.9%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 32.2%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 24.4%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) – 13.0%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.6%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2017, your second quarter 2018 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 18.6%
Slightly higher (5% to 10% higher) – 34.5%
About the same (plus or minus 5% or less) – 31.0%
Slightly lower (between 5% and 10% lower) –-9.7%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.2%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the third quarter of 2018 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 17.7%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry level landscape architect – 29.4%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 5.9%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 3.5%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 15.3%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 8.2%
No, we’re currently not hiring – 47.1%

SOURCE | ASLA