For those looking for reasons to believe that the second quarter of this year provided some relative cheer, it may be worth taking in the surveys from the FMB, which represents local builders, and the NSCC, which represents specialists.
We may not be talking about boom times, but both surveys reported a marked easing in the recessionary pressures that have dogged the smaller firms in construction for more than two years.
You have to read through the data to get a feel for what they are saying, as both surveys are more or less sentiment surveys measuring the number who think things are “better” or “more” against the number of those who think things are “worse” or “less”.
But in both surveys we see a very distinct rise in the positives with fewer FMB members, on balance, seeing workload fall than at any time since the latter days of 2007. Meanwhile, the NSCC membership saw, on balance, inquiries rise slightly in the first quarter and faster in the second quarter of this year.
Indicative of an improving marketplace for the specialists is that more are now seeing tender prices rise and the trend upward in suppliers’ prices is continuing.
And while there may be no screams about skills shortages, NSCC firms seem to be finding it harder to get hold of good people. And more firms are working at capacities greater than 90%.
The employment picture for FMB members isn’t quite as good and these firms still expect to shed yet more labour in the months ahead, although at a far slower rate.
Overall, while neither survey paints a picture of sunshine and smiles, they do back up plenty of other survey results that suggest the three months to June were among the best seen for some while.
But as the NSCC is eager to point out, cuts to public spending threaten to snuff out these early signs of recovery.