Billable hours improve, with declines in inquiries for new work and hiring.

The dramatic economic rise in business reported last quarter by landscape architecture firms appears to have slowed down during the second quarter of 2015, according to the latest American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey. Still many firm contacts indicated a rise in billable hours on the survey, with a slight decrease in inquiries for new work. Despite holding steady, a growing number of firms say they plan on putting the brakes on hiring for the third quarter.

Some 86.67 percent of firms reported stable to significantly higher billable hours during the second quarter of this year, a jump from the 82.02 percent from the previous quarter. The majority of respondents (84.51 percent) noted stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work, a slight dip from the 85.34 in the first quarter.

Year to year, 85.22 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, a jump from the 81.32 percent reported during the second quarter of 2014. Year to year, 84.91 percent said inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher, a slight drop from the 85.15 percent reported for the second quarter last year.

Of firms with two or more employees, 48.10 percent said they planned to hire during the third quarter of 2015, a fall from the previous quarter (61.54 percent). Some 56.41 percent of firms with five to nine employees will be hiring landscape architects, both experienced and entry-level.

The survey also asked questions about recruiting and the role of social media in hiring. Among firms with two or more employees, the top strategic recruiting approaches include employee referrals (66.84 percent), internships (55.10 percent), job postings on the firm’s website (53.06 percent), and job search websites (45.41 percent).

Only 17.22 percent of firms with two or more employees said that they prefer job candidates with a strong social media presence. LinkedIn (3.51 average score) was ranked as the top social media network for recruiting by firms with two or more employees, followed by Facebook (3.17 average score), blogs 2.59 average score) and Twitter (2.19 average score).

About a third (33.97 percent) of responding firms with two or more employees say that their website is optimized for mobile phones, and that this type of website helps with recruiting. A tiny number of firms with two or more employees (10.19 percent) say they search for job candidates on social media using specific keywords to look for specific hard skills.

Key Survey Highlights:
Compared to the first quarter 2015, your second quarter 2015 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 16.84%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 30.18%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 39.65%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 8.42%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 4.91%

Compared to the first quarter 2015, your second quarter 2015 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 14.79%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 38.03%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 31.69%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.21%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 5.28%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2014, your second quarter 2015 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 24.65%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 36.27%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 24.30%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 6.34%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 8.45%

Year to year, compared to the second quarter in 2014, your second quarter 2015 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 23.51%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 33.68%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 27.72%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 9.12%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 5.96%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the second quarter of 2015 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 11.39%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 14.23%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 6.05%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 4.98%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 7.47%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 6.05%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 62.63%

My firm employs the following strategic and proactive approaches to recruiting (multiple answers):
Employee referrals – 64.02%
Internships – 52.80%
Job posting on firm website – 50.00%
Job search website – 42.52%
Social media – 41.59%
Internal transfers – 16.36%

My firm prefers job candidates with a strong social media presence.
Yes – 16.86%
No – 40.78%
Not sure – 42.35%

What is the number-one social media network employed by your firm in recruiting (ranked in order of importance)?
LinkedIn – 3.53 score
Facebook – 3.12 score
Blog – 2.53 score
Twitter – 2.21 score

My firm’s website is optimized for mobile phones, and this helps with recruiting.
Yes – 30.77%
No – 43.08%
Not sure – 26.15%

My firm searches for job candidates on social media using specific keywords to look for specific hard skills.
Yes – 10.04%
No – 65.46%
Not sure – 24.50%

About the Survey
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey asks quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries and hiring plans. The survey is not intended to be statistically significant but instead provides a snapshot of the landscape architecture industry. The Q2 2015 national survey was fielded July 1 to July 15, 2015, with 288 primary firm contacts responding.