Civil engineering consultants have shed more than 11,000 staff in the last 12 months, NCE can exclusively reveal.
Figures supplied for NCE’s Consultants File 2010 show that overall employment in the industry has fallen by 7.4% from 151,400 in January 2009 to 140,200 in January 2010.
The findings are based on a comparison of the figures of the 200 firms listed in this year’s File who also appeared last year. In total 242 firms are listed in this year’s File.
Redundancies were most prevalent amongst the large firms with 73% of those with 1,000 employees or more making cuts.
This compares with 70% of those with between 101 and 1,000 employees, 47% of those employing between 26 and 100 and just 41% of the small firms with 25 and fewer employees.
In total 47% of firms also implemented wage freezes as a means of controlling costs.
More than half of firms have also resorted to cutting fees or working for reduced margins.
Large firms – those employing 1,000 or more – were least likely to have cut their rates, with 47% admitting to taking that approach.
By contrast 71% of firms employing less than 25 people cut their rates.
Overseas work accounted for 32% of the revenue of the 242 consultants in the File, with £5.3bn of the £16.2bn total turnover now earned overseas.
Compared with the previous year 37% of firms saw overall turnover increase, 36% saw it fall and 26% saw it broadly stay the same.
Fee income for the 2009 calendar year followed a similar pattern with 32% of firms reporting an increase, 42% a decrease and 26% little change. Overall, fee income was up from £10.3bn to £12.9bn, although this includes £1bn from the global figures of Parsons Brinckerhoff. These are included this year because the consultant is now owned by the UK-registered Balfour Beatty.
The expectation is for 2010 to be another tough year, with 38% of firms expecting an improvement in the UK, 51% no change and 11% a decline in UK workload.
The overseas market is expected to fare better, with just 3% of firms expecting a decline in Europe and 7% a decline in the rest of the world.
Those active in the energy and environment sectors are the most optimistic.
“The immediate future looks difficult for engineering consultants working in the UK and abroad,” said Imperial College Business School professor of design and innovation Bruce Tether.
“Last year was evidently a very tough year for many - although not all - in engineering consulting. Many thousands of people have lost their jobs; others are having to work harder for less.
“This year does not look very promising. For most, I suspect, it will be a year to survive,” he said.
The five biggest sectors for civil engineering consultancy all grew last year, albeit slowly.
Fee income in roads grew from £1.4bn to £1.8bn, in rail from £1.1bn to £1.2bn, in building from £2.6bn to £2.7bn, in environment from £715M to £931M and in water from £818M to £884M.
Information is based on the results of a survey of 242 firms conducted by NCE in January 2010. Statistics are for UK registered companies operating at home and abroad. Turnover figures are to the year end for which figures are available. Fees are for the total value of fees rendered in the 2009 calendar year and may be a best estimate if final figures were not available.