Yorkshire's job hotspot is Hull, where developments are on the increase and a skills shortage is pushing pay upwards.
Rather than dramatic increases in jobs since the late 1990s, Yorkshire's construction output has risen at a moderate but steady rate, and recruitment vacancies have risen about 4% a year. This steady market has meant unemployment has remained low compared to the rest of the country.

Zoom into Hull, though, and here we find a hotspot. Mark Hughes-Payne, regional sales manager for Hays Montrose, says that in the past 12 months there has been a dramatic increase in jobs registered in Hull, mostly in labour hire.

With company relocations, a massive increase in developments and a number of projects due to begin, the office will be filling more than 60 labour hire jobs this month. "We got a call today from one client who wants 12 electricians within the next three weeks – and this is not uncommon right now," says Joanne Smith, Hays Montrose Hull office manager.

The office has filled 54 jobs over the past two months for one client alone. Three were management roles and the remainder were labour hire jobs. Approximately 65% of clients expect workloads to increase, which will mean skill shortages will intensify, especially for bricklayers, carpenters and joiners. The region is also experiencing increased demand for candidates with social housing and public sector experience, as PFI/PPP projects increase.

"The market is job rich, but the number of available candidates is poor, particularly in the semi-skilled market and for site engineers and junior appointments," says Hughes-Payne. "The applicant pool at the moment consists roughly of 10% who are looking for immediate work, 30% who will only move roles to a very specific job, and 60% who aren't actively looking for a new role, but who keep their eye on available vacancies and would apply if an interesting job came along."

Skill shortages mean clients are less rigid about candidate experience. "A client of mine required two site engineers with recent experience working on industrial developments," says Hughes-Payne. "With a lack of candidates, the client accepted people with excellent but not immediately relevant experience."

There has been little above inflation growth in salaries over the past few years. However, recently some contractors have been forced to disproportionately increase salaries to attract candidates. One company filled a senior construction manager/director vacancy by paying £6000 more than the current market rate.

In terms of perks, contractors are increasingly offering car allowances and healthcare to compete for candidates and bring benefits in line with other sectors. Hughes-Payne filled a project manager vacancy for a £11.5m refurbishment and extension project in Leeds. The client required 10 years' main contractor experience on £10m-plus new-build projects. "There are very few locals with this experience and the job was filled by a candidate who was about to be made redundant and who had 25 years' experience," said Hughes-Payne. "The client offered £38,000, plus a car, healthcare and pension."

The second half of 2003 is expected to be promising, especially for labour and trades. Hughes-Payne says: "All my clients are saying it's coming up to a silly season. The development pipeline has increased and there is very positive feedback from major contractors who predict a rosy last half of the year."