Fears over the impact of the Iraq war eased this week after a Federation of Master Builders survey showed 41% of small and medium-sized firms had increased workloads in the first quarter.
This figure was 10% higher than expected. The main driver for the growth was the repair, maintenance and improvement of private housing.

The firms were also confident of a strong second quarter, with 78% of those surveyed expecting workloads to either grow or remain constant.

FMB director general Ian Davis said: "It appears that consumer confidence remains healthy, despite the situation in Iraq and the fears of a slowdown in the property market. Builders tend to be cautious in predicting workload, so the fact that they are forecasting growth over the next six months is a good indicator of a buoyant market."

However, the survey also noted continuing problems for builders in trying to find directly employed and subcontract workers. In total, 69% of small and medium-sized firms reported difficulties in sourcing labour – up 4% on the same period last year.