Contractors have sent out a stark warning to the industry on falling workloads with only 4% of firms expecting increased workloads for the next year.
Analysis of data from the Civil Engineering Contractors Association's (CECA) quarterly Workload Trends Survey identifies a relatively unexpected drop in workloads in the last quarter of 2018.
Members of CECA reported that after two consecutive quarters of growth, seven out of 10 sectors in the industry reported falling workloads.
While order books decreased for 8% of firms, on balance, only 4% of firms expect increased workloads during the next year - the lowest balance in six years.
CECA’s director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said the latest results came as a “shock” given the improvement in members’ workloads in recent quarters.
“Activity in the infrastructure sector in England appears to be relatively robust, although elsewhere in the UK the picture remains mixed,” she said. Overall, these results show that the infrastructure sector is failing to perform to its full capacity, which given its crucial role in driving economic growth bodes ill for the UK economy. At a time where continuing political uncertainty has undermined business confidence, we hope the government will make every effort to unlock schemes around the country and ensure our members can deliver the projects that underpin economic growth.”
The picture north of the border looks bleaker with half of Scottish firms reporting a further decline in orders over the last quarter of 2018. Commenting on the results, CECA Scotland’s chief executive Grahame Barn said there appeared to be “no light at the end of the tunnel for Scotland’s civils contractors”.
“Workloads have now declined for a staggering five quarters in a row,” he added. “We, now more than ever in these times of uncertainty, need to see concerted action from the Scottish and UK government’s to support Scotland’s civils sector. As MSPs consider the future of the Scottish construction sector, this ongoing workload crisis highlights the urgent need for change to secure its future and rightful place at the heart of Scotland’s economy.”