Trade body calls on government to act as spate of redundancies, loss of work and payment periods worsen

Almost 5,500 jobs will be lost from SMEs in the civil engineering sector by next spring, according to research released today.

A survey by the Civil Engineering Contracting Association (CECA) of SMEs showed 82% expect to make job cuts in the next six months if current trading conditions continue, with 48% having already shed staff.

This equates to predicted total job losses of 8,434 – 17% of the total SME workforce – by spring, including 3,006 of jobs already lost since the markets began deteriorating and a further 5,428 expected.

The survey also found that the average time taken for civil engineering contractors to be paid by clients increased by more than eight days over the past year, with 30% of firms seeing payment periods increase by more than 20 days.

Sixty-six per cent of contractors had seen a reduction in total workloads over the last year, with 31% saying they have less than two months-worth of confirmed orders. Thirty-seven per cent have seen a reduction in public sector works over the last 12 months.

The CECA has now called for the government to adopt measures set out in a ten-point plan, including accelerating public sector expenditure and improving payment terms for SMEs.

Rosemary Beales, CECA director, said: "There is little sign that the overall market for civil engineering contractors is improving as we head into 2009, and our research shows that for SMEs especially, the situation is getting steadily worse.”