Fastest rise in enquiries for building work in more than 10 years, says FMB

Enquiries with local building firms increased at its fastest rate in a decade in the first three months of 2021, which fuelled significant difficulties with construction material shortages, according to new data from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The latest FMB State of Trade Q1 2021 survey found that:

Activity

  • Workloads, enquiries and employment all grew in the period January to March 2021, with enquiries growing at their fastest pace in more than 10 years
  • Activity in all sectors grew, but repair, maintenance and improvement saw the strongest performance, with 55% of respondents reporting increased workloads and 70% reporting increased enquiries

Employment

  • 38% of builders are struggling to hire bricklayers, up from 22% in Q4 2020
  • 34% are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, up from 23% in Q4 2020

Materials

  • 93% of builders said that material prices were rising
  • Meanwhile, 66% of members reported an increase in the prices they charge for work, up from 29%, partly due to rising workloads, but also the need for builders to keep pace with the increase in wages and salaries and material cost increases.

Commented on the survey, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “In the first quarter of the FMB’s 80th year, it is particularly pleasing to see enquiries grow at their fastest rate in more than a decade. However, success is not without its challenges. A whopping 93% of builders reported material price increases in the period January to March, with concerns over accessing roof tiles, glazing products, timber and insulation.

“The worrying impact of these material price increases is that quality builders are at risk of being undercut by unscrupulous traders offering lower quotes to homeowners. Consumers must be aware that the cost of building works may change in the months ahead, as access to materials continues to cause a headache for 93% of Britain’s builders.”

Brain concluded: “Moreover, with the construction skills shortage slowly creeping back up the agenda, it’s clear that there is significant capacity in the sector to take on new entrants and create much-needed jobs. I am bitterly disappointed over the decision to cancel the Green Homes Grant scheme, which offered an opportunity to not only bring more people into construction but also to tackle climate change. The government’s answer to this must be a long-term National Retrofit Strategy, that has the backing of industry from the outset.”