The latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), for Q4 2023, has shown a worrying trend of decline in workloads, enquiries and employment for small and medium sized building firms in Wales. 47% of FMB Members reported a decrease in enquiries, with workloads down by 42% on the previous quarter.

Ifan Glyn, Wales Director of the FMB said: “The decline in demand is obviously a worry, and we will be keeping a watchful eye on how things develop over the coming months. Skilled labour shortages also continue to be a cause of great concern, particularly in light of the Welsh Government’s recent decision to break a manifesto pledge and slash apprenticeship funding.”

Glyn continued: “At a time when we need Welsh Government support to be ramped up, it is a major blow that they are turning down the dial. The impact will be felt far and wide, with a 25% drop in construction output predicted. It will also curb our ability to tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face in Wales, such as the need to build more homes. We vehemently urge the Welsh Government to reconsider this catastrophic decision.”

The latest survey for Q4 2023 found:

Welsh Market Conditions

  • Wales witnessed a substantial decrease in overall workloads, dropping from 14% in Q3 2023 to -28% in this quarter.
  • There has been a notable decline in enquiries, with a decrease from a net change of 0% to -33% on balance, indicating a challenging picture ahead.

The report also found across the UK:

Market conditions

  • There has been a decrease in total workload, enquires and employment over Q4 of 2023, in all sectors being worked on by small builders, including repair, maintenance and improvement. 
  • 47% of FMB members reported a decrease in enquiries.
  • Workloads were down 15% on Q3 2023 in the final quarter of last year.  


  • Overall, difficulty in recruitment has slightly decreased, however over a quarter of members report a decrease in employees.
  • 36% of members are struggling to hire carpenters with 34% struggling to hire bricklayers.
  • Just under half of FMB members report that jobs are delayed because they are struggling to hire skilled workers.

 Changes in prices and costs

  • 63% of members report that material costs increased in Q4 2023, down from 71% in Q3.
  • The impact of increased outgoings has led to 66% of members increasing the prices they charge, with just under half reporting that the business in on track to make a loss or fall below expected margins.
  • One in five report that they are restricting hiring new staff as a consequence of increased outgoings.

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.