Since 2015, when the industry rebounded from the Great Recession, the number of employed interior designers has been gradually increasing each year. In the 12-month period from May 2018 to May 2019, however, the number of interior designers added to the employment rolls grew by nearly 6% — the largest increase since 2015.

Employment for interior designers in 2019 was the highest it has ever been, with more of them working in A&D firms rather than in other industry-related positions.

Between May 2018 and May 2019, the number of employed interior designers rose by 3,580 positions, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bringing the total number to 60,650. The only other time the industry has experienced such a large increase in employed designers was in 2015, when more than 6,000 additional positions were reported — a near 12% rise in just one year. (BLS data does not include self-employed interior designers.)

As the demand for interior designers has grown, more have obtained positions in A&D firms. Continuing a trend from last year’s estimates, the BLS data show a sizable increase in interior designers working in architecture firms, up 2.7%, an additional 2,080 positions, from May 2018.

Nonetheless, specialized design services firms still account for the highest level of employment and highest concentration of employment nationwide for interior designers. Following a slight dip in 2018, those working in design firms as of May 2019 grew by 3.7%, 620 new employees, compared to the previous year.

Designers employed in residential construction increased as well, by nearly 3%, with 150 more reported. Those working in furniture stores declined for the second year in a row, by about 5%. Interestingly, the number employed in home furnishings stores, which had dropped considerably in 2018, rose by almost 20%. At the same time, though, the mean annual salary decreased, suggesting that many of these new hires may be relatively inexperienced designers.

Salaries for interior designers working in A&D firms in 2019 improved from the prior year. The mean annual salary for those working in interior design firms rose 3.7%, while that for those working in architecture firms increased 2.7%. In terms of dollars, the mean annual salary for a designer working in an architecture firm was around $5,000 more than that for a designer working in an interior design firm. (Those figures do not include bonuses, commissions and other forms of compensation aside from base salary.)

By comparison, the average raise for all employees in all fields nationwide in 2019 was 3.5%, and inflation for the year grew by 2.3%. Designer salaries were thus more or less in line with those of the rest of the workforce.

The BLS data provide further evidence of the growing importance of interior designers in the built environment industry. It is too early yet to know what the impact of the current economic slowdown may be on the industry. Given the upward trajectory of the employment pattern in recent years, it seems likely that even if demand softens somewhat in the months ahead, firms should be able to recover quickly once it picks up again.