A shortage of skilled labour is among the chief concerns for construction businesses; something we’ve covered in our post-recession challenges briefing. However the industry as a whole has so far managed to meet expanding demand, even if the rate of growth has eased during the last six months. Employment data show that the pressure on industry capacity has so far been largely absorbed by existing staff working longer hours. However, industry recruitment will need to strengthen over the coming year if construction is to accommodate rising workloads.

According official ONS statistics during the first quarter of 2015 there were 2,124,000 jobs in construction. This was a rise of 0.3% compared to the previous quarter, with construction’s workforce growing by an estimated 1.3%  over the preceding 12 months and continuing the slow pace of employment growth seen over the last two years.

Indeed 2014 saw construction employment rise by just 2% in contrast to the 9.5% surge in construction output during the year.

This is in contrast to to the experience during the downturn, when construction employment initially held up relatively well in the face of plummeting workloads as firms sought to hold onto their best staff by cutting back on hours as well as jobs.

This sharply reduced the average working week which had been gradually shortening over the previous decade. However since mid-2012 working hours have steadily risen once more, as firms have been either unable or unwilling to hire additional staff. In the final quarter of 2014, the average construction worker was working more hours than at any point in the last decade.
A modest increase in employment and an easing in total workloads saw a dip in the average weekly hours worked during 2015 Q1. However this is likely to be short-lived. Glenigan is forecasting further output growth for 2015, which in the absence of hiring on a larger scale will further increase the demands placed on the existing workforce, or see firms having to turn down work.
Whether this uptick in employment is yet underway is less clear.  According to the May Markit/CIPS Construction PMI, job creation in May hit the fastest level seen all year. However the May KPMG/REC Report on Jobs, a survey of recruiters, found that demand for construction workers grew more slowly than any other employment sector during May, across both permanent and temporary roles.
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