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2009 a Year to Forget for Firms

Architecture and engineering (A/E) executives paint a grim employment picture in a survey by The Zweig Letter, an industry trade publication.

Firm leaders reported that job losses in 2009 affected everyone — from highly qualified professionals to support staff — and, in some cases, the bleeding has not stopped. According to results of the online survey of 43 A/E firm leaders, conducted during the first week of January, some firms lost up to 50 percent of their staffs in 2009, and some went out of business.

“We reduced our staff around 33 percent in 2009,” one respondent said. “We might make further cuts.”

Seventy-two percent of respondents said their firms lost both professional and support staff in 2009, and 35 percent said they are considering additional staff cuts.

“We had two layoffs in 2009 — our first ever …,” Mike Ritchie, president and chief executive officer of Photo Science Inc., a Lexington, Ky.-based geospatial-solutions firm, said. “We remain on guard for 2010.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Monthly Labor Review report for November, the A/E industry lost roughly 115,000 jobs between November 2008 and November 2009.

Seasonally adjusted report numbers show that 1.313 million people were employed by architectural and engineering services in November 2009, compared with 1.428 million in November 2008. At its peak in April 2008, employment in the industry was 1.451 million. The November 2009 number represents the lowest employment for the A/E industry since 2005.

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