The prospects of a double-dip recession have increased in the past month, according to the latest survey of architects by the RIBA

The institute said the number of practices expecting workload to increase dropped from 31% in April to 26% in May, and the number of firms expecting to cut staff numbers rose from 11% to 16%.

In addition almost a third of staff were underemployed in May, compared with 22% in April. The reduction in workload may in part be the result of spending freezes that have operated across much of the public sector since the election was called at the start of April.

Firms were, however, also more pessimistic about the future supply of private housing and commercial work.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice, said: “This is the third month in a row that the workload index has fallen, perhaps indicating that the architects’ profession is likely to see a double-dip recession. Large practices continue to be the most pessimistic about future workloads.”

“Anecdotal commentary focuses on difficulties in obtaining funding from the banks for commercial schemes, aggressive fee competition and great uncertainty over public sector cuts.”