The number of specialist contractors to have increased tender prices has risen to its highest point in eight years according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC).
Figures for the fourth quarter of 2014 show that 44% of specialist contractors have increased tender prices compared to just 11% who decreased prices in the same period. The balance of tender prices, which is the difference between respondents reporting an increase and a decrease in prices, is the highest since the pre-recession days of late 2006.
The NSCC says this recent boost has been driven by a combination of increased demand and the rising cost of materials, with 82% of respondents reporting an increase in suppliers’ prices in the last quarter.
However, almost as many (80%) specialist contractors are reportedly working at over 75% capacity, with almost half at over 90% capacity. The NSCC says these capacity levels look set to be maintained over the next year, with more than half of respondents anticipating that their workload will increase during this period.
However, the continued growth within the industry is likely to face opposition from growing skills shortages, with 43% of the NSCC’s survey group reporting more difficulty in recruiting skilled labour in the last quarter. The balance of recruitment difficulty remains at its highest level for 10 years.
Late payment also remains an issue, with 20% waiting on average more than 60 days to get paid.
Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of the NSCC, said:
“Increasing workloads and higher tender prices are both good news for specialist contractors but the difficulty in recruiting skilled labour is a reflection of the skills crisis facing the industry. The only way to ensure continued growth in our sector is by sustained investment in training and apprenticeships.”