A shocking 89% of local builders have reported having to delay jobs due to a lack of materials or skilled tradespeople, according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Adding to the pressure facing the industry, 97% of builders have reported skyrocketing material prices and expect this to continue into the last quarter of 2021, with 78% passing this increased cost on to the consumer. 

Workload in Northern Ireland remained stable in Q3 2021, compared to Q2. However, there was an indicative sharp decrease in the number of enquiries over the same period with only 47% of builders who responded to the survey saying they had seen an increase in enquiries compared to 93% last quarter, possibly reflecting the start of a return to normal market conditions.

The FMB State of Trade Survey, which is released quarterly, is the only survey of its kind to track the experience of small to medium-sized (SME) construction firms in the UK. It found:

Delays and cancellations

  • 82% of builders have delayed jobs due to a lack of materials
  • 60% have pressed pause due to a lack of skilled tradespeople
  • Combined, 89% of builders have faced delays due to either materials or skills shortages
  • 8% of builders have been forced to cancel jobs due to a lack of materials
  • 12% have been cancelled due to a lack of skilled tradespeople

Skills shortages

  • 42% can’t get hold of general labourers, up 6% on last quarter
  • 37% can’t hire plasterers, a rise of 6% on last quarter
  • 47% of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, down 6% on last quarter
  • 45% are struggling to hire bricklayers, a fall of 2% on last quarter

Price rises

  • 97% of builders are facing material price rises, with 93% expecting this to continue into Q4
  • 77% of respondents have been forced to raise their prices in the past quarter

Gavin McGuire, Northern Ireland Director at the FMB, said: “The survey findings reflect what is a complicated situation for the industry here in NI. From a positive perspective it’s great to see that enquiry levels and workloads remain high.”

McGuire continued: “However the continuing pressures to find skilled tradespeople and crippling price increases have caused many contractors and clients added stress. We need to see a period of stability to help deliver the infrastructure and social value society demands”

McGuire concluded: “The Department for the Economy’s skills strategy urgently needs to encourage apprenticeships in construction to develop a pipeline of key tradespeople.”

Notes to editors

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is the largest trade association in the UK construction industry representing thousands of firms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Established in 1941 to protect the interests of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms, the FMB is independent and non-profit making, lobbying for members’ interests at both the national and local level.

The FMB is a source of knowledge, professional advice and support for its members, providing a range of modern and relevant business building services to help them succeed. The FMB is committed to raising quality in the construction industry and offers a free Find a Builder service to consumers.