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Slowdown coming in UK government construction and associated archaeology

Charles Mount has been following construction activity as a proxy variable for commercial archaeology work in Ireland (Mount 2012).  His data show that a slowdown in construction results in a reduction in commercial archaeology, a well known trend around the world. Applying this concept to the UK we can look at the construction industry as a proxy for possible commercial archaeology activitiy. In this case, the The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is used. The results show that while construction was very strong at the beginning of the year, especially March, the index has been falling in the last couple of months. It is currently flirting with contraction, a reading of under 50, and it is unlikely that commercial archaeology, as a whole sector, will have seen lots of growth in the last few months.

Taking a longer view of the sector shows some clouds on the horizon. The UK government is now providing pipeline views of new construction projects anticipated over the next couple of years. These are big projects, £10 million plus, but these projects indicate a drop in government construction projects over the next few years. Government construction projects make up 40 percent of the construction sector.

Count of Entries Sum of 2011/12 (£m) Sum of 2012/13 (£m) Sum of 2013/14 (£m) Sum of 2014/15 (£m)
Flood 38 £224 m £289 m £273 m £251 m
Health 158 £590 m £1,066 m £983 m £807 m
Housing & Regeneration 47 £1,789 m £1,100 m £1,281 m £1,552 m
Justice 14 £203 m £254 m £280 m £78 m
Transport 68 £3,596 m £3,411 m £3,622 m £4,001 m
Waste 35 £594 m £1,090 m £1,407 m £803 m
Education £2,504 m £1,640 m £486 m
MOD 90 £396 m £732 m £627 m £592 m
Police Authorities 132 £216 m £14 m £15 m £03 m
Home Office 6 £13 m
Nuclear Decommissioning 24 £313 m £275 m £360 m £449 m
Research 10 £13 m £23 m £14 m £11 m
Further Education 1 £17 m £153 m £59 m £01 m
Culture, Media and Sport 4 £1,098 m £467 m £425 m £117 m
FCO Embassies £42 m £64 m £69 m £65 m
Coal Authority 2 £06 m £07 m £08 m £08 m
Grand Total 629 £11,614 m £10,586 m £9,908 m £8,738 m

This could pickup as more projects are proposed and more money is allotted to large government construction projects. However, there needs to be a 25 percent increase in money allotted for proposed projects by 2014/15 to keep the supply constant. It looks as though construction will not see large growth in the next few months and there are head winds for the future. This means that commercial archaeology is probably in a similar setting. Do not expect a large contraction, but there is unlikely to be a large pickup either.

As should always be noted, a large catastrophic event make all projects redundant.

Mount, C. 2012. Indicators suggest that archaeological activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012. The Charles Mount Blog, 4 October 2012. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=960

Decrease in Irish archaeology for the first half of 2012

Charles Mount has published some numbers on excavation licenses for Irish archaeology during the first two quarters of 2012–and the news is not good. You can see the full numbers in his post:

Indicators suggest that archaeological activity in Ireland continued to decline in the first half of 2012.

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Ireland’s historic environment worth 40,000 jobs and 1.5 billion Euro

English: The Euro symbol (€) printed and in ha...

The Euro  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Heritage Council of Ireland, a statutory body established under the Heritage Act, 1995, has released a report on the Economic Value of Ireland’s Historic Environment conducted by Ecorys and Fitzpatrick Associates. As defined by the report, Ireland’s historic environment consists of two World Heritage Sites, Bru na Boinne in Co Meath and Skellig Michael off Co Kerry, more than 20 Historic National Properties, 38,000 protected structures and more than 120,000 monuments protected under the National Monuments Act. These resources were used as the basis for the economic analyses.

Some of the highlights are:

  • The historic environment is a highly significant contributor to Ireland’s national economy, directly
    supporting almost 25,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs.
  • Including indirect and induced effects, it is estimated that the historic environment sector supports
    approximately 40,000 FTE employment positions in Ireland.
  • Within the context of Ireland’s economy, it is estimated that the historic environment’s contribution to the
    national economy is equivalent to one percent of total Irish Gross Value Added (GVA), and two percent of overall employment.
  • Ireland’s built historic environment constitutes an invaluable educational resource, and at all stages of
    the lifelong learning spectrum. For example, not only are Ireland’s flagship heritage sites a major
    source of school educational visits, they are also a focus of academic research and conference
    activities.
  • The role of Ireland’s historic environment in attracting private sector investment into Irish towns and
    cities, and its contribution to enhancing quality of life/livability in these localities.

There are more benefits as well that can be seen in the report.

UK archaeology forecast shows mixed outlook

Landward Research Ltd recently completed a report on the State of the Archaeological Market in the UK. There is both good news and bad news for the state of professional archaeology. Job losses have stabilized since the the recession but they are still down 800 positions (5,900) from pre-crash levels (6,700), though these numbers do not take into account the potential growth in jobs had the recession not occurred. Looking at the Profiling the Profession reports (provided at the Landward Website) between 2002-03 and 2007-08, employment increased by 20 percent. Had that trend continued, there would currently be around 8000 archaeology jobs in the UK. This puts the actual losses at closer to 2,000 jobs. This larger number probably explains the tough competition among recent graduates and veterans for jobs, there are five years of students who have not been able to obtain jobs except from positions created by the retirement of archaeologists.

When asked if the employment situation will improve, the report shows that the opinions expressed by commercial companies and other organizations are split. Read more…

UK tax code change could hurt historic preservation

The recently announced Chancellor’s Budget in the UK includes a proposal to increase the VAT from 0 to 20 percent for the alteration and maintenance of listed buildings. This will put a heavy financial burden on those that own or maintain historic listed buildings.

While not every building alteration on a listed building requires specialized historical preservation skills, many projects do  for at least some aspects. An increase of 20 percent for project costs may cause some repair projects to be postponed or shelved. This in turn may have a knock-on effect for those employed in the historic preservation sector. It may also hurt other sectors such as heritage and museum management. Sites and museums would see their maintenance costs increase forcing them to reallocate funds from other areas of their budgets. Though these results are hypothetical, and it is unknown at the moment what problems the tax increase might bring, the Council for British Archaeology is “urging its members to make their views on this known and also to sign the online petition.”

Full details can be found at the HM Revenue & Customs website and consultation on the proposed changes has been put up by the CBA (p. 23), which is open until 4 May 2012.

Another look at employment and market share

A very thoughtful comment was made about HBJ post Employment: Multidisiplinary firms vs. heritage-only firms (18 Feb 2012):

“Large multi-service firms tend hire and terminate for each project because their offices rarely have enough local work to retain technicians. They tend to have centralized full time labs and production centers that do not have positions for techs for after fieldwork tasks. Whereas many hertiage-only company like CRA use full-time technicians in a variety of tasks. The ability to live near a company’s office(s) to come in and do post-fieldwork tasks is the key to full time work. In addition the ability to move techs and other staff between offices reduce the need for temporary project specific techs except for the largest field projects. Plus in any given year we receive enough cold call applicants from technicians with good resumes that simply working the resume file drawer eliminates the need for an ad for most projects.”
Steve Creasman and Kay Simpson

A high turnover of technicians in multi-service firms could easily explain why there are more job advertisements from these types of companies than from heritage-only firms. To explore this more, I also took a look at senior positions (e.g. principle investigators, senior archaeologists, office/regional managers) for the same 2011 data set. Of course titles are not standardized across the sector and names can be misleading, but a full 46% of the job advertisements reviewed asked for 10-25 years of experience and 55% asked for 5-9 years of experience (a slight overlap with some asking for 8-12 years). The job descriptions and requirements (years of experience, permits, etc.) firmly place these jobs in the top levels of employment regardless of title. None of these jobs mentioned temporary employment but that does not mean it is not. However, asking for 20 years of experience for a temporary job would be rare but not unheard of (or it should be in my personal opinion). Out of 79 job postings, 61 of them mentioned their employers (some of the job postings have been removed making it impossible to see who was the employer). In this data set the breakdown is even more lopsided in favor of multi-service firms

Heritage-only firms may look for their top-level workers through other means than advertisement such as internal promotion or through professional networks. A lack of lower level positions in multi-service firms may make it hard for them to recruit internally. What these data do show is that the majority of job advertisements for archaeologists at all career levels was dominated by multi-service firms in 2011. Does this mean they get the majority of business? That can not be determined from these numbers but employment may indicate strong growth prospects.

Employment: Multidisiplinary firms vs. heritage-only firms

February 18, 2012 4 comments

In a recent HBJ post (17 February 2012), Christopher Dore reported that it appears that heritage-only consulting firms are losing market share to full-service firms. To add a different set of numbers to his data, I took a look at the number of job postings for field technicians on the job websites Shovelbums and ArchaeologyFieldwork.com for 2011. Eliminating duplicate posts both between and within the websites, I looked at companies offering jobs for field technicians:  a total of 330 separate posts. Jobs were considered separate if the project was different even if the company was the same, six or more months had passed, or it was an emergency hire for a previous job (assumed to be a separate hiring event). If single ads were for multiple positions, the number of positions offered was not counted as most job postings did not give those details. Surprisingly, not every job listing had the company’s details or even the firm’s name on it. Thus, of the 330 unique postings, 295 were used for analysis. Here is the break down of job hiring events between CRM only firms, multi-service firms, and other firms.

In 2011, multi-service firms posted more than twice the number of job ads for field technicians than did cultural-only firms. These employment data seem to support Dore’s observation that heritage-only firms are losing market share to multidisciplinary environmental and engineering companies.

There are limits to what can and should be inferred by these results. There are many small CRM firms that  do not advertise for field technician positions as their projects are too small to require a full crew. Though it does say something that the majority of job adverts for lower level positions are being done by multi-service  firms. The full data can be accessed here.

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