This summer, the ‘phones at Advantage’s offices have been busy, with new and existing clients getting in touch to enquire about structural warranties for their projects.
And the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) state of trade survey (covering the three months to the end of August) shows that it’s not just our construction clients that have had a busy summer. Almost half of SME builders enjoyed an uptick in demand over the summer, with two-in-five expecting workloads to increase in the autumn, according to the survey.
As reported by Construction News, FMB chief executive Brian Berry said workloads had “bounced back” thanks to an increase in people doing repairs and upgrades on their houses.
More enquiries, but more government support needed
Half of firms reported an increase in enquiries during the period. This has not translated into an increase in hiring to deal with the new work, however. Almost 80 per cent reported no change in their staff numbers, while 16 per cent said they had laid people off.
The survey also revealed the industry is bracing for higher material costs, with 78 per cent expecting a rise.
Berry called on the government to do more to support a recovery. He said:
“To sustain recovery in the private repair, maintenance and improvement sector a national energy efficiency retrofit strategy is needed that will not only generate thousands of new jobs across the country but also help the government’s commitment to create a greener economy.”
Slow growth for construction
Construction Enquirer reported that construction output was still growing in August, but at a slower pace than in July, with industry output now running around 11% below pre-Covid levels.
Mark Robinson, chief executive at public sector procurement authority Scape Group, said: “Confirmation of further growth will hearten many in the industry whose determination continues to keep order books healthy, albeit below pre-Covid levels.
“However, the overall economic outlook remains ominous and construction will be expected to drive the ongoing recovery as other sectors regroup and evolve as government support recedes.
“The UK’s strategy is clearly in line with that of the IMF, and will continue to use historically low interest rates to invest in public infrastructure that will create jobs and accelerate towards a green recovery and an economy fighting fit for the future.
“If we’re to capitalise on this influx of central funding, contractors and public sector organisations must do all they can to get spades in the ground quickly.”
With further restrictions planned for the UK to slow the spread of COVID-19, the construction sector is still having to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of driving economic growth. To sustain and build upon this summer’s slow growth for construction, industry leaders will continue to urge the government to offer more help, funding and incentives for an industry which has stayed open for business almost without a pause during the pandemic.