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Construction SMEs unfazed by Brexit upheaval, says FMB

Construction SMEs experienced rising workloads in the second quarter of 2018 despite ongoing uncertainty over the skills shortage and Brexit, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has today announced.

The findings form the basis of a brand new FMB State of Trade Survey – currently construction’s only quarterly assessment of UK-wide SME performance.

  1. SME workloads remained positive throughout Q2 2018 and rose at a faster rate than they did in the first quarter of 2018;
  2. The construction SME sector has enjoyed more than five years of consecutive quarterly growth;
  3. More than three-quarters (76%) of builders reported increasing material prices in Q2 2018;
  4. Two-thirds (65%) of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and 60% are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners;
  5. More than half (54%) of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase over the next six months.

“The second quarter of 2018 proved to be a positive one for the UK’s builders,” confirmed Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB. “Our latest research shows that firms enjoyed stronger growth in workloads than they did in the first three months of this year. Pleasingly, the construction SME sector has now enjoyed more than five years of consecutive growth.

“Furthermore, employment rose at a faster pace in the second three months of 2018 than it did in the first three months. Looking ahead, despite growing political uncertainty and Brexit now less than a year away, construction SMEs remain positive. Businesses are optimistic with nearly half of firms predicting rising activity levels over the next three months.”

Berry urged cautioned however, and pointed towards the prevailing skills shortage which has seen recruitment levels dwindle: “The latest evidence reveals that nearly all of the key occupations have become harder to recruit in the second quarter of this year compared to the previous three months. Bricklayers continue to be the hardest to recruit with nearly two-thirds of firms struggling to hire them, and carpenters not far behind. Without guaranteed access to skilled EU workers, there is a real possibility that skills shortages will further intensify.

“Skills shortages are also the leading cause of rising wages. This, coupled with the fact that margins continue to be squeezed by significant material price increases, should add a cautionary note to these otherwise encouraging findings. While we wait to hear what the post-Brexit immigration system will look like, we are hoping that the government will listen to the needs of the sector. The construction industry is a cornerstone of the UK economy, so it’s in all of our interests to do what we can to support its small firms.”

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