Economic Outlook Is Mixed for Landscape Architecture Firms

The economic outlook remains mixed for landscape architecture firms, according to the latest American Society of Landscape Architects’ “Business Quarterly” survey. During the fourth quarter of 2016, firms reported a dip in billable hours and inquiries for new work, with hiring plans expanding from the previous quarter.

A comparison of survey results with fourth-quarter numbers from the last four years shows that business conditions are generally improving as firms head into the first quarter of 2017.
The survey found 77.12 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, a drop from the 78.38 percent the previous quarter. This result is above what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (74.47), 2014 (74.67), 2013 (75.7) and 2012 (66.5).

Some 77.77 percent answered that inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher during the fourth quarter of 2016, a drop from the 80.33 percent the previous quarter. This result outperforms what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (71.73), 2014 (76.75), 2013 (74.4) and 2012 (74.2).

Year to year, some 77.26 percent of firms said that billable hours were stable to significantly higher. This result is below what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (81.66 percent), 2014 (80.17), 2013 (81.5). It is greater than the fourth quarter results from 2012 (72.1).

Year to year, some 81.72 percent of respondents said that fourth quarter inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher.  This result is above what had been reported for the fourth quarters of 2015 (71.73), 2014 (76.75), 2013 (74.4) and 2012 (74.2).

The majority of firms with two or more employees (57.33 percent) says they plan to hire during the first quarter of 2017, a jump from the third quarter 2016 survey (47.95 percent). This result is above the numbers reported for 2015 (51.42), 2014 (50.63), 2013 (48.5) and 2012 (37.05). Additionally, some 57.9 percent of firms with more than 100 employees say they will hire either an experienced landscape architect of an entry-level landscape architect.

The survey also asked respondents to provide feedback about business conditions for 2017. Fully 34.04 percent of survey participants believe that business conditions in 2017 will be better than 2016, while 47.34 percent believe conditions will be the same. Some 9.04 percent believe conditions will be worse.

The majority of respondents (47.09 percent) stated they are more optimistic regarding the general business climate in 2017 for the landscape architecture profession. Fully 34.92 percent say their level of optimism remains the same, and 13.23 percent say they are less optimistic.

Survey Highlights

Compared to the third quarter 2016, your fourth quarter 2016 billable hours were (all firms):

  • Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 11.17 percent
  • Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 37.23 percent
  • About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 28.72 percent
  • Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 12.77 percent
  • Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 10.11 percent

Compared to the third quarter 2016, your fourth quarter 2016 inquiries for new work were (all firms):

  • Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 9.52 percent
  • Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 29.63 percent
  • About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 38.62 percent
  • Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 14.29 percent
  • Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 7.94 percent

Year to year, compared to the fourth quarter in 2015, your fourth quarter 2016 billable hours were (all firms):

  • Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 25.4 percent
  • Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 31.75 percent
  • About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 20.11 percent
  • Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 14.81 percent
  • Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 7.94 percent

Year to year, compared to the fourth quarter in 2015, your fourth quarter 2016 inquiries for new work were (all firms):

  • Significantly higher (more than 10 percent) – 17.74 percent
  • Slightly higher (5 to 10 percent higher) – 32.8 percent
  • About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 31.18 percent
  • Slightly lower (5 to 10 percent lower) – 13.44 percent
  • Significantly lower (more than 10 percent) – 4.84 percent

How would you describe business results for 2016 compared to 2015 (all firms)?

  • Significantly better (more than 10 percent) – 33.16 percent
  • Slightly better (5 to 10 percent higher) – 29.41 percent
  • About the same (plus or minus 5 percent) – 20.86 percent
  • Slightly worse (5 to 10 percent lower) – 11.76 percent
  • Significantly worse (more than 10 percent) – 4.81 percent

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the first quarter of 2017 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?

  • Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 19.33 percent
  • Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 19.33 percent
  • Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 12 percent
  • Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 8.67 percent
  • Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 12.67 percent
  • Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 10.67 percent
  • No, we’re not currently hiring – 42.67 percent

Do you think that in 2017 general business conditions will be better than they are now, about the same, or worse (all responses)?

  • Better than they are now – 34.04 percent
  • About the same – 47.34 percent
  • Worse – 9.04 percent
  • Not sure – 9.57 percent

What is your level of optimism regarding the general business climate in 2017 for the landscape architecture profession (all responses)?

  • More optimistic – 49.09 percent
  • Less optimistic – 13.23 percent
  • About the same – 34.92 percent
  • Not sure – 4.76 percent

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