Work in hand for UK consultants has dropped a dramatic 36% on last year according to the figures presented by 233 companies for the 2011 NCE Consultants File, published this week.
Firms are sitting on £9.5bn of work compared to £14.88bn last year and prospects for the next 12 months are looking challenging.
Despite this, 45% of firms are hopeful that the market has bottomed out and are predicting an increase in workload over the next 12 months in the UK; another 40% believe UK work will remain the same.
This is after a year when 39% reported that 2010 was worse than expected, 39% said it was the same as anticipated and 22% had a better year than expected.
Total staff numbers fell by slightly over 20,000 from 182,522 to 162,217 and fees slumped by £1bn from £12.9bn to £11.9bn. The most severe cuts in staff numbers were made by the largest firms where employment fell by 10% to 11%.
The £1bn fall in fee earnings was almost totally made up by the 17% slump in public sector workload from £4.2bn to £3.5bn.
Overseas earnings held up, coming in the same as last year at £5.3bn. Predictions for foreign earnings are that they will remain the same for three quarters of companies operating internationally with most of the rest predicting an increase rather than decrease in workload abroad. Overseas workload in 2010 was pretty much as anticipated back in 2009.
Over five years however consultants have fared very well. Total fees in the 2007 file were £7.4bn and staff numbers stood at 131,943.
Earnings per head in 2007 were £56,000 compared to £73,300 in the 2011 File.
The top five UK owned firms who reported figures in all files have had their peaks and troughs but in the 2011 File are all well ahead on 2007 (see graphs).
Mott MacDonald, Arup and WSP have dramatically increased overseas earnings as a percentage of turnover since 2007. Mott’s overseas percentage now is 65% up from 47%; WSP is at 69% up from 57% and Arup is at 66% up from 48%.
By contract Atkins has increased overseas turnover from 12.6% of turnover to 28% although the 2011 File return does not include turnover from its new US aquistion PBSJ. Mouchel has 3% of its revenues from abroad now, compared to zero in 2007.