Rise in Architectural Firms' Revenue Not Reflected in Hiring

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U.S. architectural firms are finally starting to see more work come in after suffering three years of falling revenues and laying off 30 percent of their workers.

The American Institute of Architects said that, for the first time since 2008, firms' revenues grew or held steady for three consecutive months: November, December and January. But so far, that growth hasn't translated into more jobs.

"While we've seen an increase in billings, it hasn't been reflected in hiring," said Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects. The latest data from the New York State Labor Department show a 6 percent drop in the number of architecture and engineering jobs in New York City in December, compared to the same period a year ago.

But architectural firms in the Northeast, including those in New York City, were among the first to see an uptick in revenues last summer, followed by the Midwest and South. Firms in the West continue to report losses.

"What has been a factor of the relative stability of New York, compared to say Florida, California, and Minnesota, has been international work," said Rick Bell, executive director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He said New York firms have benefited from construction projects happening overseas -- in China and the Middle East.

Architectural firms' revenues are often viewed as a leading indicator for the construction industry, since the design of buildings starts a year before construction.