Small construction firms enjoyed rising workloads in the first quarter of 2017 despite concerns over the cost of labour and materials in the wake of last year’s Brexit vote, according to a survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
The FMB’s state of trade survey showed that in the three months to March 2017 one-in-two construction SMEs predict rising workloads in the coming months, with only 5 per cent predicting a decrease in activity.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The first three months of 2017 proved to be very positive for construction SMEs, which reported strong growth, underpinned by continuing resilience in the home improvement sector.”
However, the survey also showed that 85 per cent of builders believe material prices will rise in the next three months as inflation looks set to increase.
Specialised employment was also down as 60 per cent of construction SMEs surveyed are struggling to hire bricklayers, with 58 per cent unable to hire carpenters and joiners.
Berry added: “The combined effects of rising material costs and the ever-worsening construction skills crisis will therefore be reason enough for SME construction firms to be cautious in their optimism. If growth in real household income remains flat, and if consumer confidence is shaken by the impending snap General Election and the triggering of Article 50, there are plenty of potential pitfalls for builders to navigate.
“Nevertheless, as of yet, the much anticipated ‘Brexit effect’ has yet to hit what is considered to be the bellwether sector of consumer confidence and wider economic health.”