We Hear You: It's Rough Out There

Over three weeks in late October and early November, ARCHITECT administered a 12-question reader survey on economic confidence, administered via SurveyMonkey, a web survey tool, and announced in ARCHITECT's weekly e-newsletter. The total number of responses was 788, though not all respondents answered every question—some questions were skipped by a handful, others by dozens of respondents. (What gives? Aren't architects known for their attention to detail?)

The charts below show how you responded, while the captions offer our own, inexpert analysis of those results. There are a few reassuring surprises: A full 35 percent of you, for instance, reported that no one you know in the industry has been laid off in the past nine months. Then again, that was before the Architecture Billings Index dropped to an all-time low in late November. However bad you were feeling when you took the survey, the symptoms can't have improved much since. –Amanda Kolson Hurley

Anxiety: 94 percent of survey-takers say they're worried about the economy.
Cost-cutting: Not surprisingly, the firms where you work are cutting back on hiring, raises, and T&Es. However, close to 20 percent of you (the "fancy fifth," perhaps) report no belt-tightening at all. Among the 27 percent of firms that are trimming I.T. investment, some must face the vexing question of how to save money while also staying up to date with BIM and other emerging technologies.

2. Cost-cutting: Not surprisingly, the firms where you work are cutting back on hiring, raises, and T&Es. However, close to 20 percent of you (the “fancy fifth,” perhaps) report no belt tightening at all. Among the 27 percent of firms that are trimming I.T. investment, some must face the vexing question of how to save money while also staying up to date with BIM and other emerging technologies.

2. Cost-cutting: Not surprisingly, the firms where you work are cutting back on hiring, raises, and T&Es. However, close to 20 percent of you (the “fancy fifth,” perhaps) report no belt tightening at all. Among the 27 percent of firms that are trimming I.T. investment, some must face the vexing question of how to save money while also staying up to date with BIM and other emerging technologies.


Layoffs: Most of you know at least one architect who's been laid off recently. Given the waves of layoffs that took place nationwide in November, though, there are bound to be even more of you now.

3. Layoff s: Most of you know at least one architect who’s been laid off recently. Given the waves of layoff s that took place nationwide in November, though, there are bound to be even more of you now.

3. Layoff s: Most of you know at least one architect who’s been laid off recently. Given the waves of layoff s that took place nationwide in November, though, there are bound to be even more of you now.


Job security: Although most of you are worried about your jobs, only a shade over 8 percent report sharp anxiety. Again, the recent rounds of layoffs may have increased that percentage.

4. Job security: Although most of you are worried about your jobs, only a shade over 8 percent report sharp anxiety. Again, the recent rounds of layoff s may have increased that percentage.

4. Job security: Although most of you are worried about your jobs, only a shade over 8 percent report sharp anxiety. Again, the recent rounds of layoff s may have increased that percentage.


Backlogs: Only 10.6 percent of you say your firm has a backlog of work that will last a year or longer.

5. Backlogs: Only 10.6 percent of you say your fi rm has a backlog of work that will last a year or longer.

5. Backlogs: Only 10.6 percent of you say your fi rm has a backlog of work that will last a year or longer.


Business strategy: Firms' strategic responses appear to be evenly divided among sitting tight, reining in, and branching out.

6. Business strategy: Firms’ strategic responses appear to be evenly divided among sitting tight, reining in, and branching out.

6. Business strategy: Firms’ strategic responses appear to be evenly divided among sitting tight, reining in, and branching out.


Client behavior: An over-whelming 79 percent of your clients have put a project on hold due to financial jitters. The silver lining? Other clients, 41 percent of you report, are staying the course.

7. Client behavior: An overwhelming 79 percent of your clients have put a project on hold due to fi nancial jitters. The silver lining? Other clients, 41 percent of you report, are staying the course.

7. Client behavior: An overwhelming 79 percent of your clients have put a project on hold due to fi nancial jitters. The silver lining? Other clients, 41 percent of you report, are staying the course.


Strong sectors: It's kind of a no-brainer, but healthcare, education, and government work is seen as a safe harbor. "International" was reported as a strong category; will it still be in 2009?

8. Strong sectors: It’s kind of a no-brainer, but healthcare, education, and government work is seen as a safe harbor. “International” was reported as a strong category; will it still be in 2009?

8. Strong sectors: It’s kind of a no-brainer, but healthcare, education, and government work is seen as a safe harbor. “International” was reported as a strong category; will it still be in 2009?


Weak sectors: Predictably, residential, retail, and office are perceived as weak spots.

9. Weak sectors: Predictably, residential, retail, and office are perceived as weak spots.

9. Weak sectors: Predictably, residential, retail, and office are perceived as weak spots.


Length of downturn: At the time of the survey, just shy of 9 percent of you saw this crisis as on par with the Great Depression. That number may have now risen, along with the jobless rate.

10. Length of downturn: At the time of the survey, just shy of 9 percent of you saw this crisis as on par with the Great Depression. That number may have now risen, along with the jobless rate.

10. Length of downturn: At the time of the survey, just shy of 9 percent of you saw this crisis as on par with the Great Depression. That number may have now risen, along with the jobless rate.


Age: Most survey-takers were over 40, and half were over 50, so it's probably not a stretch to conclude that many are firm leaders with inside knowledge of firm strategy and finances.

11. Age: Most survey-takers were over 40, and half were over 50, so it’s probably not a stretch to conclude that many are firm leaders with inside knowledge of fi rm strategy and finances.

11. Age: Most survey-takers were over 40, and half were over 50, so it’s probably not a stretch to conclude that many are firm leaders with inside knowledge of fi rm strategy and finances.


Firm size: Smaller firms predominate. Are they feeling the heat more than larger firms, or are they nimbler, and therefore better able to adapt to the turbulent economy?

12. Firm size: Smaller firms predominate. Are they feeling the heat more than larger firms, or are they nimbler, and therefore better able to adapt to the turbulent economy?

12. Firm size: Smaller firms predominate. Are they feeling the heat more than larger firms, or are they nimbler, and therefore better able to adapt to the turbulent economy?