Trade at small and medium-sized UK construction firms continued to grow during the final quarter of last year despite worries about the economy, according to the Federation of Master Builders.
The federation's quarterly state-of-trade survey found that 40% of firms had increased workloads and 26% reported a rise in employment. This was attributed to homeowners investing in the repair, maintenance and improvement of their properties.

Further increases in workload and workforce are expected in the first quarter of this year. New build, repair maintenance and improvement of private housing and commercial buildings are expected to be the main growth areas.

However, the survey said the shortage of skilled labour continued to restrict growth. Two in three firms indicated that they had difficulty recruiting employees and hiring subcontractors.

The survey also found that there had been an increase in industrial and commercial work in the non-residential sector. But the RICS said there had been a slump in the UK commercial property market since its last quarterly survey, suggesting that contractors might soon experience a fall in speculative office work.