New jobs in architecture show strong recovery in 2021, but still short on pre-pandemic levels

Mar 2, 2022 | News, Real Estate

  • New architecture jobs up 98% on 2020, although down 25.7% on 2019 
  • Specialist architect roles overtake real estate experts as most in-demand function
  • North West leapfrogs South East into 2nd (behind London) for most vacancies
  • Foster & Partners busiest recruiter, fastest growth at John McAslan + Partners

Vacancies in the UK’s architectural practices are on the rebound after suffering a big setback during the first year of the pandemic — however, they are yet to reach the recruitment levels seen in 2019, according to a new report

Research by data analysts Vacancysoft shows that new jobs in the architectural sector fell by 63.5% year-on-year in 2020. May 2020 represented an unprecedented milestone, when hiring fell below double digits to only nine UK vacancies. While hiring immediately picked up in the following month at practices across the country, it did not recover to anywhere near pre-pandemic levels until 2021.

The report found that overall sector jobs in 2021 grew by 98% in relation to 2020, however they still finished 25.7% lower than 2019. April 2021 represented the busiest month for vacancies since October 2019, the 150 jobs published constituting a 581.8% year-on-year rise and 16.3% compared to the same month in 2019. 

James Chaplin, CEO, Vacancysoft, said: “Unlike in other sectors, where vacancies generally have rebounded well since covid-19 emerged, recruitment levels within architecture in the United Kingdom have been slow to recover.”

“However, with December 2021 representing the third-busiest month of the year, this suggests figures in 2022 could pick up further and climb back towards the levels the sector experienced pre-pandemic”.

Specialist architect roles overtake real estate experts as most in-demand function

By industry-specific professional areas, architects make up the most new hires in the architectural sector in 2021 — perhaps an expected result, but one that was not always a given. In 2019, real estate professionals accounted for 57% of specialist vacancies; the 820 vacancies published that year for these experts was 127.5% higher compared to recruitment for architects. 

The first year of the pandemic saw the balance dramatically flip, with hiring for real estate professionals accounting for 34% of all new industry-specific jobs compared to 42.1% for architects. The gap widened further in 2021, when architectural firms published nearly 450 vacancies for architects, 43.7% up year-on-year and 119.1% higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

North West leapfrogs South East into 2nd (behind London) for most vacancies

Architectural practices in London published over 610 new architectural jobs in 2021, a 138% year-on-year rise, and growth of 1.5% compared to pre-pandemic levels. The capital accounted for 49.8% of all new jobs, up 9 percentage points from 2020. The largest increase, however, was in the South West, where vacancies were up by 160% year-on-year.

In the South East, which accounted for 16.3% of all vacancies in 2020 (the second-most in the UK), recruitment fell by 23.3% year-on-year, resulting in it losing nearly 10 percentage points in vacancy share. Leapfrogging into second spot after the South East’s slip was the North West, with hiring levels at architectural practices in the region up 124.1% year-on-year.

Foster & Partners busiest recruiter, fastest growth at John McAslan + Partners

Across the top architectural firms in the UK for hiring in 2021, Foster & Partners led the way with the publication of 110 new jobs, constituting a rise of 155.8% year-on-year. The largest year-on-year increase was experienced by John McAslan + Partners. The company’s  23 professional vacancies in 2021 represented  a rise of 1050% year-on-year.

  Top 20 firms, architectural vacancies, UK, 2020-2021 – for Top 20, see report

# Company 2020 2021 YOY%
1 Foster & Partners 43 110 155.8%
2 IBI Group 62 89 43.5%
3 Entwistle Green 27 68 151.9%
4 Gensler 27 63 133.3%
5 Urban Design Group 6 60 900.0%
6 Ferrovial 53 48 -9.4%
7 BDP 31 48 54.8%
8 Pegasus Planning Group 10 47 370.0%
9 LUC 6 36 500.0%
10 HTA 14 34 142.9%
16 John McAslan + Partners 2 23 1050%

Hiring levels at Turley grew at the second-fastest rate last year, up by 1000% compared to 2020. Ferrovial, second for UK architectural sector vacancies in 2021, was the only top firm to experience a downturn in new jobs (-9.4% year-on-year). The firm that recorded the most vacancies in 2020 was IBI Group. Faster growth at other practices in 2021 meant the company slipped to second place.

  • The data for this article is taken from a 2021 labour market review of the UK real estate and construction sector produced by Vacancysoft. Read it here.

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