Wednesday, February 10, 2010
AIA Oregon lobbyist Cindy Robert relayed some sobering statistics to me about the recession and its impact upon the architectural profession in the U.S. According to the December 2009 release from the U.S. Department of Labor, 50,000 jobs have been lost at architecture firms since the recession began. This means that employment in architecture has dropped 23% from its high point during the summer of 2008, far outpacing the losses suffered in other industries.
This is payroll losses only, and includes all positions at architecture firms, not just architects. It does not adjust for underemployed architects (if you are on the payroll, you are counted), architects who have taken salary cuts, or those that have taken furloughs or other unpaid leave.
Many express concerns that these job losses may be permanent, that there may not be a sustained economic rebound for years to come. If these concerns are realized, we risk losing an entire generation of architects to other careers. The irony is that this would occur at a time when I believe the expertise, skills, and perspective of architects will be needed most.
As I wrote in one of my AIA-SWO President’s Messages last summer, the deep recession is compelling us to rethink how we do things as a society. We’re being awakened to a new paradigm, where profligate consumption is being replaced by prudent conservation. I'm optimistic because our communities are recognizing the value of creative and visionary thinking during challenging times. Our profession is likewise being driven toward models of practice that emphasize adaptability, new technologies, and lean operation. The opportunities will be there for those architects who seize the day.