Survey shows specialist builders most pessimistic about employment prospects in 2010, although trades continue to report skills shortages

More than 30% of SMEs in the construction sector are expecting to make staff cuts in the first three months of 2010, new figures have revealed.

The latest state of trades survey by the Federation of Master Builders showed that 38% of members cut staffing levels in the last quarter of 2009, and 33% anticipated having to make further cuts in the first quarter of 2010.

The survey noted that general builders were significantly more optimistic than specialist builders regarding employment in the first three months of the new year.

About 48% of specialist builders anticipate a reduction in employment, compared with 29% of general builders.

Meanwhile 44% of FMB firms said they expected their workloads to decline in Q1 2010, and the federation said the year looked set to begin a ninth consecutive quarter of deterioration.

However, despite the job losses, the FMB said skills shortages continued to be reported across several trades, with builders indicating that they had difficulties recruiting plumbers, electricians, heating trades, site managers and supervisers.

Richard Diment, director general of the FMB, said: “The employment figures from our members’ survey are particularly alarming.

"The government must do all it can to help our beleaguered building industry because without its help the industry won’t be able to deliver the homes and infrastructure that will be required when the UK does finally move out of recession.”