Contractors found it easier to hire skilled labour in the final quarter of 2002 than they had for six years, according to a report by the National Specialist Contractors Council.
It was the first time in six years that there were more contractors saying they could find enough labour than those saying they could not. Only 2% of survey respondents said they were unable to bid for work because of the skills shortage.

Ian Murdoch, an academic at Northumbria University's built environment school and the author of the report, warned that the result may be a seasonal blip.

He said: "People are still saying the skills shortage has the greatest effect on their long-term prospects."

Murdoch added that fourth quarter research was affected by an unusually low response rate.

The report showed that the average wait for payment remained between 30 and 60 days.