B&ES trade survey shows further signs of recovery
Market conditions continued to improve in the second half of last year, according to research carried out among members of the Building & Engineering Services Association. More firms reported an increase in orders and enquiries compared with six months earlier, while half reported a rise in turnover.
Member optimism regarding future prospects was also seen to have consolidated, and the number of firms recruiting apprentices and trainees rose modestly, but significantly, during the period.
There were indications that the recovering commercial environment meant that margins had ceased to fall — although increases in labour and materials costs were becoming a cause for concern for 33% and 63% of respondents, respectively.
The research also revealed that levels of both direct employment and the use of agency labour had risen — the former for the first time in the lifetime of the survey [there have been four] — and that these trends were likely to continue during the next 6-month period.
Only in the domestic-heating sub-sector were market conditions reported to have worsened, with a decline indicated in order books and enquiries.
Chief executive Roderick Pettigrew noted that this was the second success B&ES survey to have painted a relatively bright picture of prospects across building-engineering services.
He said, ‘Encouragingly, our findings appear to be in line with those of other surveys carried out recently in adjacent sectors, which taken together provide evidence of a sustained, if still modest, process of recovery.’
Although issues surrounding late payment and poor margins continued to have an adverse effect on some businesses, Mr Pettigrew considered it significant that members were becoming less concerned about client and main-contractor insolvency. ‘Yet another positive indicator,’ he suggested.