Builders’ workloads are at their highest levels for ten years according to the latest survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The rise in workloads in Northern Ireland is, however, being matched by steep increases in material prices and a growing struggle to secure labour, especially carpenters and bricklayers. This is causing a perfect storm for future building work.

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


  • Workloads, enquiries and employment all grew in the period April to June 2021, with workload and enquiry levels at their highest point for a decade
  • Findings indicate 93% of Northern Irish builders are receiving higher levels of enquiries for work, compared to last quarter


  • 53% of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, up from 23% six months ago
  • 47% are struggling to hire bricklayers, up from 22% in Q4 2020

Prices and costs

  • 98% of builders are facing material price rises, with the same number expecting this to continue into Q3 2021
  • 80% of respondents have been forced to raise their prices in the past quarter

Gavin McGuire, Director of FMB Northern Ireland, said: “It is really encouraging to see indications of soaring workloads and enquiries for FMB NI members during the second quarter of 2021, with a fantastic 93% of all respondents reporting higher levels of enquiries. The resilience of local construction companies, through what have been unprecedented times, is truly inspiring. However, huge material price increases and serious challenges around recruiting skilled labour loom large as worrying issues.”

McGuire concluded: “This survey’s findings highlight that the Department for the Economy’s new Skills Strategy will play a vital role in determining the industry’s future. The FMB believe the construction sector should be at the very heart of this strategy’s development.”