Construction bosses reorganise workforces in preparation for potential downturn

Construction industry bosses are preparing for a potential downturn by reorganising their workforces, according to the latest research.

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) State of Trade Survey for Q2 2019 found that there was a decrease in employment levels among small construction firms for the first time in more than five years, with 21% of employers reporting a reduced workforce.

Nearly two-thirds of construction SMEs (60%) were struggling to hire bricklayers, while 54% were finding it tough to recruit carpenters and joiners.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “Years of Brexit uncertainty have resulted in construction bosses starting to change how they employ their workforce. 

“To ensure their firms are ready for any economic shockwaves later this year, employers are reducing their number of direct employees and relying more on subcontractors who are easier to shed if work dries up. 

“The construction industry has always used a significant proportion of subbies, but the fact that direct employment is decreasing points to Brexit nerves among construction bosses. 

“This is the reality on the ground of what happens when years of uncertainty are inflicted on the construction industry. 

“Furthermore, apprenticeship training has taken a hit as construction bosses are reluctant to take on young people when they can’t be sure of future projects going ahead.”

Some 27% of construction SMEs reported higher workloads during Q2, up on the 22% who reported the same in Q1.

However, only 37% were expecting higher workloads in the next quarter, down on the 41% recorded in Q1.

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