A sign of the times on our news pages this week. One of the bigger consulting engineering groups, Acer, is cutting 55 jobs. Not a large number by the scale of construction industry cutbacks, though none the less distressing for those involved.The significance of this cut, though, is its nature, not its number. Consulting engineers have, in the past, been better insulated than most against the cold blasts of recession. In the recession of the early 1980s, employment of engineering professionals increased even while unskilled and semi-skilled jobs were disappearing at an alarming rate.This time, it's different. This recession is reaching the parts that other recessions have failed to reach.And quite what the consequences of that will be for our national capability to design and construct new projects and make new products is anybody's guess: but it's unlikely to be good news.