However, the outlook is less optimistic, according to survey respondents. Tender enquiries are falling at a more rapid rate, particularly in large and medium-sized firms where they had been holding up well. Orders are also below normal, with the decline again concentrated in large and medium-sized firms. Employment prospects, although still positive, have eased slightly since the highs in the latter part of 2001 and price increases are moderating.
Only contractors in the East Midlands experienced a rise in order books in April – and this was only a marginal increase. The largest falls in orders were recorded in Wales, the South-east and the West Midlands. The tender enquiries balance increased in only three regions: the East Midlands, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and worsened considerably in East Anglia, the South-west and the West Midlands. The outlook for tender prices was optimistic in April, with all regions except Northern Ireland expecting increases over the coming months. Although a majority of regions posted positive employment balances in April, only in three did optimism concerning employment improve – Yorkshire & Humberside, the South-east and Northern Ireland.
Over the year to April 2002, almost three-quarters of firms experienced rising labour costs.
This an extract from the monthly focus survey of construction activity undertaken by Construction Forecasting and Research on behalf of the European Commission as part of its suite of harmonised EU business surveys. The full survey results and further information on CFR's forecasts and services can be obtained from CFR by phoning 020-7808 7070 or logging on to www.constructionfutures.co.uk.
The survey is conducted monthly among some 800 firms throughout the United Kingdom and the analysis is broken down by size of firm, sector of the industry and region. The results are weighted to reflect the size of respondents. In addition to the results published in this extract, all of the monthly topics are available by sector, region and size of firm. Quarterly questions also seek information on materials costs, labour costs and work in hand.