From Architect Newswire:
"According to the latest data available from the Department of Labor, employment at American architecture firms, which peaked last July at 224,500, had dropped to 184,600 by November. And many among those counted as “employed” have seen their hours reduced to part-time, their status changed to independent contractor or their salaries replaced by smaller hourly wages. Such measures make it difficult to pin down a precise unemployment percentage, but here in Minnesota, most industry watchers estimate joblessness to be between 40 and 60 percent.
So unsettling is the unemployment situation that architecture, some say, has joined print media and the auto industry as a sector that must make dramatic changes if it is to survive.
With the bulk of Minnesota architects concentrated in Downtown firms — the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects estimates that two-thirds of its members work in Minneapolis — the crisis has had a very visible impact on the core of the city.
“The demand right now is very low,” said Jason Mehmen, an account manager at Aerotek, a local recruiting agency that staffs architects and engineers. “There is just so much uncertainty on the part of the firms. They’re scared to death to hire anyone, even if they do need people.”
Every job vacancy triggers a flood of applications, Mehmen said. And sifting through hundreds of potentially irrelevant resumes makes hiring even less appealing to employers already jittery about taking on new talent.
“I’ve already had architecture firms say, ‘We’re not even going to post our jobs. We’re not even going to deal with it.’”
Staffing agencies like his have grown even more important than ever, Mehmen says, in saving firms the hassle of filtering applicants. But they can also absorb a lot of the risk involved when a firm looks to hire on a part-time or contract basis. “If we employ someone, we provide their benefits, and we pay their unemployment insurance,” Mehmen said. “We offer candidates that security, but we also offer the firm the flexibility not to bring them directly onto payroll.”
The problem, most experts agree, is the lending environment, which remains painfully frozen 18 months after the real estate market initially imploded. Banks aren’t taking any risks, developers are starved for financing, and with new construction stalled indefinitely, it’s impossible for architecture firms to look ahead to new projects. So tied to new construction is the architecture profession that it has tended to boom and bust along with the real estate market."
The complete article is here.