Building's annual league table reveals headcount is up by 18% and fees by 24% among the biggest construction consultants

Building’s annual review of construction consultants reveals that the top 250 firms are employing 18% more people than a year ago and are earning 24% more in fees. The 2006 survey showed an increase in 9% for the headcount and 11% for income.

The top 250 firms now employ 35,442 chartered staff, who undertook work worth £6.9bn in fees.

Fifty-six per cent of consultants said margins averaged more than 8%. However, this growth is not being translated into higher per capita earnings. The top 250 actually made 4.6% less per chartered employee and 8.7% less per member of their overall staff, possibly as a result of training newcomers.

Ninety-seven per cent of firms are planning to recruit over the next 12 months, although they foresee having problems finding enough people. The number complaining that staffing difficulties are holding back growth has increased to 70%.

Building's research also shows an increase in corporate activity in the sector, with acquisitions rising from 20 in 2006 to 50 this year.

Hill International, which is 91st in the overall ranking, tops the fastest-growing companies table. It expanded from 16 to 78 staff in 2007, a 550% rise.

Atkins topped the overall ranking, with 6,340 staff, followed by Mott MacDonald in second place with 2,584 and Mouchel Parkman with 1,849.