Civils start the year with high expectations

The latest quarterly survey of civils contractors indicates that their workload increased in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the sector is now recruiting for recovery.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) quarterly workload trends survey shows that after two successive quarters of year-on-year decline, more firms across Great Britain reported workloads rising in 2020 Q4 than falling.

In Wales the gap between those reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease in workload in Q4 was +33 percentage points and in Scotland it was +23. In England it was a different picture, with more companies reporting workload still in decline. The gap between the risers and fallers in England was -20 percentage points.

According to CECA, this equates to a +11 reading for Great Britain as a whole. (CECA does not extend to Northern Ireland).

Order books were up overall, with +20 percentage points between the risers and the fallers across GB– the highest balance in three years. Again however, there are stark regional variations: +50 for Wales, +36 for Scotland but just +3 for England, where 85% of GB residents live.

Expectations of workload for the next 12 months, however, reveal optimism among English contractors with a positive balance of +51 percentage points between those expecting and increase and those expecting a decrease. For Wales the gap is +67. For Scotland it is still positive at +26.

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These findings are mirrored by expected employment in the next 12 months: the gap between those expecting to create jobs and shed jobs for operatives is +50, +55 and +67 percentage points for England, Scotland Wales, respectively. Broadly similar results were attained on the question of expected employment of staff.

CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “These survey results show that the infrastructure sector is primed to drive the recovery from Covid-19 in 2021.

“As one of the few sectors that has been able to continue working safely throughout the pandemic, we have already seen the strategic importance of the construction and infrastructure sectors to the whole economy.

“Now that CECA members’ workloads are increasing and order books are growing, we will see the sector deliver much-needed job creation in all parts of the UK.

“Given the UK government’s stated intention to ‘Build, Build, Build’, coupled with its aspiration to ‘level up’ the economy, there has perhaps never been a better time to enter our industry, which will be at the vanguard of our national recovery from Covid-19 as our members deliver the key infrastructure businesses and communities rely upon.”

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