Decade high workloads clash with staff and material shortages

Despite builders’ workloads being at a ten year high, contractors still have to contend with rising material prices and a continuous labour and skills shortage, especially for sourcing carpenters and bricklayers.

This perfect storm for future building work was explained and presented in detail in the Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey published today [2 August].

“Today’s FMB State of Trade Survey tells a tale of extremes,” said Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB. “While it’s brilliant to see small, local building companies and sole traders bouncing back from the difficulties of 2020, record workloads and enquires are bringing significant challenges.

“An extraordinary 98% of small builders now face rising prices for building materials, with the same number expecting this to continue into the autumn. Half of those who responded to our survey are struggling to hire a carpenter or a bricklayer. Without these fundamental inputs, how can Britain build back better?”

The Survey found:

Activity

  • Workloads, enquiries and employment all grew in the period April to June 2021, with workload and enquiry levels at their highest point for a decade.
  • 71% of builders are receiving higher numbers of enquiries for future work, compared to Q1 2021.
  • Activity in all sectors grew, but overall growth is being led by repair, maintenance and improvement, with 59% reporting increased workloads.

Employment

  • 53% of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, up from 23% six months ago.
  • 47% are struggling to hire bricklayers, up from 22% in Q4 2020.

Prices and costs

  • 98% of builders are facing material price rises, with the same number expecting this to continue into Q3 2021.
  • 80% of respondents have been forced to raise their prices in the past quarter.

Commenting on the findings, Brian concluded: “In the absence of greater support from government and industry to explain to consumers why prices are going up, I fear a growing number putting themselves at the mercy of cowboy builders seeking to undercut quality tradespeople. To address the skills crisis so starkly presented by this new data, industry efforts to encourage more people into construction must be supported at the Spending Review with further investment in colleges.”

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