The Federation of Master Builders

State of Trade Survey

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Latest State of Trade Survey

State of Trade survey Q2 2019 (PDF, 2.63MB)

Tracking developments in the UK construction industry

For more than 20 years, the FMB's State of Trade Survey has monitored key indicators and predicted future short-term developments in the UK construction industry. It is the only survey of its kind to focus exclusively on small and medium-sized (SME) firms throughout the construction sector. The survey is dispatched to the entire membership every quarter. Between 300 and 400 responses are received and they are weighted according to turnover.

The typical firm responding is either a general builder or building contractor directly employing ten or fewer people, and turning over between £100,000 and £500,000 per annum. Results are generally reported as percentage balances, as results from qualitative surveys traditionally are. This is the difference between the percentage of respondents stating 'higher' and those replying 'lower' to questions. The magnitude of the balance does not indicate the scale of the change. Instead, the larger the balance, the greater the number of respondents stating either 'higher' or 'lower'.

In Q2 of 2019, workloads for small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms were once again on the rise. However, employment dipped for the first time in more than five years. The FMB’s State of Trade Survey shows that small construction companies are preparing for a downturn later in the year by reducing levels of direct employment and taking on more subcontractors. The key results are as follows:

  • There was a decrease in employment levels among small construction firms for the first time in more than five years with over one fifth (21%) of employers reporting a reduced workforce;
  • After a difficult start to 2019, workloads for construction SMEs grew slightly compared with the previous quarter with more employers (27%) reporting higher workloads than in the first quarter of this year (22%);
  • Bricklayers are the trade in shortest supply with nearly two-thirds (60%) of construction SMEs struggling to hire these tradespeople and 54% struggling to hire carpenters and joiners;
  • Looking ahead, expectations for the future weakened slightly. Just over one third of construction SMEs (37%) are forecasting higher workloads over the coming three months, down from 41% in Q1 2019.


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