Fifty-six per cent of surveyors report a drop in work, while 45% anticipate making job cuts

Latest figures have shown construction workloads continued to fall sharply in the final three months of last year.

The RICS UK Construction Market Survey, published today, said total construction workloads fell to the lowest level in the survey's history.

Fifty-six per cent of chartered surveyors reported a fall in workload in the last quarter of 2008, compared with 49% in the previous quarter and 11% in the same quarter of 2007.

Private housing was the weakest category, but public sector housing fared only a little better.

Workloads in the private commercial and industrial sectors dropped sharply, at the fastest pace in the survey's history.

The survey said there was little optimism for the next 12 months. A record 45% of chartered surveyors said they expected workloads to fall.

Meanwhile, 61% expect further erosion in profit margins and 45% anticipate being forced to make job cuts. This compares with the first quarter of last year, when chartered surveyors said they were looking to raise their head count.

Simon Rubinsohn, the RICS chief economist, said: “The pressure on the construction sector shows no signs of abating. If anything, it appears to be intensifying as the weakness in the housing sector spreads to commercial and industrial workloads.

With profits being squeezed, significant job cuts are likely. The danger is that this will lead to a permanent loss of skilled labour, which will leave the construction sector ill-equipped to play a meaningful role when the economy emerges from the recession.''