Demand for construction workers close to 20-year high

The staff shortage in construction is continuing to bite, with 33,000 job vacancies for the period of April to June according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

It is the second highest level of vacancies in the past 20 years, only beaten by the 35,000 job openings that were recorded in the previous period of March to May. Vacancies are significantly higher than they were in 2019 as well.

Commenting on the figures Construction Products Association economics director Professor Noble Francis said: “Between April and June 2021, the vacancies were 25 per cent higher than the average for 2019 and it illustrates clearly that in some regions and some construction sectors there are shortages of key skills due to high demand but a lack of skilled labour, which has been exacerbated by the loss of a significant proportion of EU workers.”

Francis highlighted recent output data which showed activity in the infrastructure, private housing and repair and maintenance markets was 10 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic level. Mace recently revised its labour cost change forecast from a two per cent decrease, to a one per cent increase.

Beard deputy chair Neil Sherreard said the catch up in work from last year meant workers were in high demand, but the industry has lost workers, particularly as the economcy has re-opened and other opportunities have become available.. “The industry has lost people during the pandemic, which has led some to leave for opportunities outside of construction, and they have been waiting until now to do so,” he said.

The ONS reported last month that the construction industry had 2.22m workers in the first quarter of 2021, 100,000 fewer than the 2.32m reported for the same period in 2020.

Sherreard said the constrained labour market would be harder for poor firms to navigate. “In our view, those companies which have a strong culture of looking after their people and treating suppliers fairly with prompt payment – and have come out of the pandemic in good financial shape – will be the ones to attract the best candidates going forward,” he said.

The latest labour data from the ONS also showed the average weekly earnings for people in the construction industry has jumped almost 14 per cent between April 2020, when the UK was in lockdown, and April 2021. It is the highest increase recorded in any industry.

Construction firms are already trying to manage soaring costs for a range of construction materials. A nationwide shortage in haulage drivers and rising international shipping costs has compounded the problem.

Sourced by Contruction News