The latest Construction Trade Survey from the Construction Products Association (CPA) shows that activity in construction rose for the eleventh consecutive quarter in Q4 but skills shortages remain a barrier.
This growth was reported by firms across all areas of the industry, and was led by new building activity in the private housing, commercial and infrastructure sectors.
The report found that, on balance, 23% of main building contractors and 31% of specialist contractors reported a rise in output, 6% of SME contractors reported increased workloads and 25% of main contractors reported an increase in orders in private housing.
Commenting on the survey, Rebecca Larkin, senior economist at the CPA, said: “It is encouraging that growth continues to be reported across the entire construction supply chain. Overall, the near-term outlook appears positive, as firms from construction product manufacturers at the beginning of the supply chain to specialist contractors, SME builders and civil engineers carrying out work on the ground reported modest increases in enquiries, orders or anticipated sales for Q1 and the 12 months ahead.”
However, the report also found that 60% of main contractors reported difficulties recruiting carpenters, 50% for plasterers and 47% for bricklayers and 41% of main contractors reported labour costs rose in Q4 compared with the previous quarter.
Ms Larkin continued: “A shortage of skilled on-site labour remains the largest threat to construction activity over the coming months. Half of main contractors found it difficult to recruit bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers in Q4, which continues to exert upward pressure on wage bills and raises the concern of whether expected volumes of work can be delivered.”
Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of Build UK, said: “Whilst we are continuing to see growth in construction the market is very mixed and the difficulties in recruiting the right skills are causing very real concerns as labour costs rise. With an expectation of rising workloads over the coming 12 months, Build UK will focus on inspiring young people and those looking for a change of career to choose construction whilst motivating the workforce to stay within the industry.”