The Federation of Master Builders

NI builders in rude health

Published date: 23 October 2017


Northern Ireland’s smaller building firms enjoyed strong growth in the third quarter of 2017, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Northern Ireland.

Key results from the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey, which is the only quarterly assessment of the UK-wide SME construction sector, include:

  • The pace of growth among Northern Ireland’s construction SMEs quickened in Q3 2017 compared with the previous quarter;
  • 41% of construction SMEs predict rising workloads in the coming three months, down from 48% in the previous quarter;
  • 82% of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next six months;
  • 61% of construction SMEs are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners and 49% are struggling to hire site managers;
  • Over half (58%) of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase in the next six months.

Gavin McGuire, Director of FMB Northern Ireland, said: “The third quarter of this year saw Northern Ireland’s smaller building firms enjoy growing workloads and enquiries. Indeed, Northern Ireland was the only home nation in the UK to experience a faster rate of growth in the three months to September when compared to the second quarter of this year. This result is particularly pleasing, and perhaps even surprising, given the continued political uncertainty we’re experiencing in Northern Ireland. It begs the question of what could be achieved if business confidence was elevated through strong political leadership and a stable Northern Ireland Government.”

McGuire continued: “However, this generally positive picture of the Northern Irish construction sector needs to be put in context. Rising workloads for builders don’t necessarily equate to large profits given the upwards pressure on costs. Since Brexit, we have seen a sharp spike in material costs and more than 80% of builders believe that material prices will increase further over the next six months. Furthermore, due to the construction skills shortage, over half of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase. These findings are a stark reminder of what is at stake if the UK, Ireland and the EU don’t manage to negotiate a post-Brexit agreement that works for the Northern Ireland’s construction industry.”

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