Positive state-of-trade survey from B&ES

B&ES, trade survey, Paul McLaughlin
Encouragement for the industry — B&ES chief executive Paul McLaughlin.

Orders, enquiries and turnover all increased in the first six months of 2015, according to the latest state-of-trade survey among members of the Building & Engineering Services Association. The survey reveals a ‘net optimism measure’ of 45%, up from 39% in the previous survey, confirming that B&ES members in all regions and of every size and specialism, are feeling positive about their future business prospects.

Growth in order levels was reported by 53% of respondents, compared with 47% in the second half of 2014. 41% enjoyed an increase in enquires and 40% an increase in turnover.

An improvement in tender prices was also detectable. For the first time since the 6-monthly survey was introduced in 2012, more members reported a rise than had experienced a decline.

Labour and material costs were both seen to increase. 36% of firms said they were employing more direct labour than six months earlier, and 40% expected workforce levels to increase further during the rest of 2015. More members were taking on apprentices and making use of agency personnel.

However, a range of concerns continues to temper members’ optimism. They include skills shortages, zero and ultra-low margins, over-long tender lists and the prevalence of late payment.

Commenting on the research, B&ES chief executive Paul McLaughlin said that they confirmed the anecdotal evidence already garnered from members that the construction industry and the building engineering services sector continued to enjoy a sustained, if still sometimes tentative, recovery.

‘I am also pleased that firms are responding to the challenge posed by skills and labour shortages by stepping up their training activity so as to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities that are available to them.

‘The optimism which is clearly spreading throughout the membership augurs well for our sector as a whole.’

The online survey was augmented by in-depth telephone interviews with 20 of the association’s top 60 members.

The exercise was undertaken by independent research company Lychgate Projects, and a full report of the findings can be found on the B&ES website.

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