Business is already feeling the pinch but the economic turbulence has not dashed all hopes for the future, a survey shows

Opportunities still exist for consultants and engineers in infrastructure and the public sector, but residential is looking gloomy, according to the 2008 State of Business Report from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.

The effects of the credit crunch are already plain, with 82% of firms saying it had had or would have an impact on them. But optimism is not lost – respondents singled out transport, energy and utilities as key growth sectors in the UK as well as globally. Consultancy and engineering firms are looking farther afield for work, including the Middle East, Australasia and eastern Europe, the report found.

A resounding 82% of respondents predicted housing would be the sector most affected by the economic turbulence, followed by commercial (12%) and industrial (3%), and 45% said residential turnover would drop more than 10% in 2009, against 14% for the commercial sector.

The survey found that the slowdown had affected the business strategy of 44% of businesses and the revenue of 23%. The forecast for the economy generally was pessimistic, with 47% of respondents predicting a recession in the UK. Nevertheless, 54% of firms surveyed expected forward workload to increase over the next 18 months and almost 62% expected forward orders to rise over the next 24 months.

The report’s other key findings include:

  • 45% of firms predicted that the energy sector would be the largest growing UK sector
  • 59% stated that Europe was their largest international location of growth during 2007
  • 42% of international firms expected infrastructure to be the largest growth sector
  • 19% of international firms predicted the Middle East to be the largest growing region
  • 43% of firms predicted they would be active in the mergers and acquisitions market over the next three years
  • almost 43% predicted business investment would change by up to 10% in 2009.

On staffing, the report found that 38% of workers who left a business had been headhunted. Year-on-year staff growth was 9%, and 35% expected employee numbers to increase next year, followed by 56% in 2010.

The industry confidence rating for 2008 is 52%. Next year it is 32%, rising to 36% in 2010.

Original print headline - Where there’s life…