Workload in the building industry is experiencing its slowest growth for six years, according to a Federation of Master Builders survey.

The survey for the first quarter of 2005 shows actual and anticipated levels of workload and employment are the weakest first-quarter results since 1999. The weakness is most evident in the northern half of England, Scotland and Wales.

Of the 500 firms surveyed, 30% reported an increase in workload since the first quarter of 2004, while 28% said workload had fallen. Last quarter, 39% reported an increase in workload, with only 21% saying workload had fallen.

The repair and maintenance of existing private housing stock has been hit by the largest loss of work, according to the survey, suffering a decline of 10%. Until now, this had been the principle driver of the rise in the workload of small and medium-sized firms. The only sector to have shown slight growth is private housing new-build, which increased output 5%.

These results do seem to point to a levelling of workloads and jobs

Ian Davis, FMB

Ian Davis, director general of the FMB, warned that the survey suggested a levelling of workload in the industry. He said: “Although it is not possible to form a conclusive judgement on the basis of one survey, these latest results do seem to point to a levelling of underlying trends in workloads and jobs.”

Davis added: “Adding to this rather sobering picture is the fact that the proportion of builders reporting difficulty finding skilled labour is at its lowest level since the third quarter of 1999.”