Taylor Wimpey's move to axe a third of its offices and about 600 jobs in the UK is the clearest sign yet of the pain in the house building sector.

It may not be the first cut so far announced, but it is the deepest. And it follows weeks of discussion over how big the job losses might be among the 300,000 people the Home Builders Federation estimate are directly employed by house builders.

Guestimates circulating among those in the know point to losses of about 50,000 and above this year among those directly employed by house builders, with cuts roughly in line with the fall in production. And the loss of construction jobs may prove significantly larger.

While not all of the 300,000 employed by house builders are construction jobs, there are many more construction jobs resting on house building outside the 300,000 directly employed. The industry tends to be light on directly employing construction folk, prefering to buy in the services indirectly from consultants and subcontractors.

So it is a fair call from where we stand now to suggest that construction-related job losses from the house building sector could be nearer 100,000.

Private house building accounts for about £20 billion worth of work, or one sixth of total construction output in an industry that employs about 2.2 million people.

Employment in construction has slipped from its peak last summer, according to the latest Labour Force Survey figures (see table 5(2)), with numbers down about 20,000 by the end of the year. The next LFS figures may provide a clue as to whether this is the start of a downward trend.

Certainly, the heat is already by felt by construction-related businesses outside house builders. Subcontractors have been asked to cut their bills and some house builders have frozen various lines of expenditure, such as for work by external consultants.

But looking beyond the immediate, the big question is: how will this impact on the construction industry's attempts to build a skilled, dynamic workforce for the future?