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Economic Realities: 2010, 2011 . . . and Beyond

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In this section, Landscape Architect and Specifier News (LASN) presents pertinent economic data from leading national organizations, the Fed, economists, forecast panels and leading figures in various business sectors to give an accurate assessment of the economy as the year winds down, and what we might expect.

We begin with an ASLA third-quarter survey of landscape architecture firms, followed by a salary survey of LAs (see below). The National Association of Home Builders (to view click here) and private home builders talk housing development. The U.S. Labor Dept. (to view click here) gives the latest prospects for new job generation, the unemployment numbers and what to expect in 2011. The Portland Cement Association (to view click here) weighs in with a broad range of economic indicators and "assumptions." Automatic Data Processing paints the private sector employment picture (to view click here). Infrastructure investment, particularly the Transportation Reauthorization Bill, is discussed (to view click here). A panel of economist offers their educated perspectives (to view click here). State fiscal travails to meet unemployment payrolls (to view click here) and Freddie Mac's third quarter report (to view click here) round out the Economic Realities section.

ASLA 3rd Quarter Survey Finds Steady Economic Improvement for Landscape Architecture Firms
A "slow march towards economic recovery continues for landscape architecture firms," is how the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) terms the results of its third-quarter business survey.

The survey, conducted October 11-24, with 465 firm representatives responding, reports more than half of responding landscape architecture firm leaders indicating steady or increased billable hours and inquires for new work. These numbers represent the third quarter in a row of positive findings outpacing negative results.

According to the survey, two thirds (65.6 percent) of firm leaders reported steady or above billable hours in the third quarter of 2010. Similarly, seven in 10 (69.9 percent) reported steady or higher inquires for new work in the same period. These third-quarter findings, similar to the second quarter results, represent the fourth time in the previous five quarters where firms reported average or above levels of work.

The relative optimism has not transferred into new jobs, with only 14.6 percent planning to hire in the upcoming quarter, down from 17.3 percent last quarter, but up from 11.8 percent this time last year. Like elsewhere in the economy, firm leaders appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to hiring despite reporting an improved business climate.

"We continue to see incremental signs of improvement, like work from projects originally put on hold due to the recession," said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. "However, firms face significant hurdles due to lack of project financing and heavy competition for a still small new business pool."

The survey also asked the landscape architects why clients choose sustainable design techniques. The top reasons include meeting government requirements (50.4 percent), saving money on utility or maintenance costs (43.1 percent), adding marketing cache (38.7 percent) and reducing environmental harm (38.1 percent).

Average Salary for Licensed LAs = $77,700 ... Without License = $52,700
The average salary for landscape architecture professionals is $71,100, according to a new national survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). This represents an overall salary dropped from $74,500 in the 2008 survey, a reflection no doubt of the stressed economic times confronting the profession. The survey of 1,202 industry professionals was completed in May 2010.

The average salary for licensed landscape architects is $77,700, which represents 73 percent of the respondents. Those without the license certainly have yet one more motivation to gain licensure, given the average salary of those without a license is $52,700.

Private sector landscape architecture professionals, who make up 70 percent of respondents, reported an average salary of $68,200. Average salary for public sector professionals, 26 percent of the respondents, was $74,000. The average salary for those in academia was $100,500, which accounts for only four percent of respondents.

And as we all know, experience counts. The average salary for respondents with zero to five years of experience was $45,885. Salaries move into the six figures after 30 years in the profession.

Comparative side note: The U.S. Government is the largest employer in the U.S., hiring about two percent of the nation's work force Those workers on the federal payroll are generally unphased by the economic tough times. Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row.

Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009, while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Federal workers received average benefits worth $41,791 in 2009, most of which was government contribution to pensions. Employees contributed an additional $10,569. The average federal salary has grown 33 percent faster than inflation since 2000.

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December 6, 2019, 12:37 pm PDT

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