The Federation of Master Builders

State of Trade Survey

SOTS Q4 2019 covershot.PNG

Latest State of Trade Survey

State of Trade survey Q4 2019 (PDF, 2MB)

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 Q4 of 2019, workloads for small and medium sized (SME) construction firms, fell into negative territory after two quarter of positive growth. However, staffing levels returned to positive growth and builders are more optimistic for the fist quarter of 2020.

The key results of the FMB’s State of Trade Survey for Q4 are: 

  • In the three months to December 2019 builders workloads fell into negative territory with around 21% of firms reporting lower workloads, 5% higher than the previous quarter; 
  • Expectations for the future rose with 37% of builders predicting higher workloads over the coming three months; 
  • Northern Ireland was the only home nation to see an increase in workloads and enquiries; 
  • Material and wage costs are likely to rise over the coming six months; 
  • Employment activity moved back into positive territory for the first time since Q1 2019 with just under one in five (19%) builders reporting an increase in staffing levels 


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