ONS figures highlight ‘challenging’ market and ongoing skills shortage

Allan Callaghan

Cruden Building has repeated its call for moves to help increase the number of people working in construction as latest figures revealed a further drop in output in the sector.

Findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today have shown that output continued its recent decline in the three-month on three-month series in January 2018, contracting for the ninth consecutive period, falling by 1%.

The ONS attributed the fall predominantly to the continued decline in private commercial work, which fell by 4.1% in January 2018.

Construction output also decreased in the month-on-month series following growth in the final two months of 2017, contracting by 3.4% in January 2018.

Compared with January 2017, construction output decreased by 3.9%, representing the biggest month-on-year decline since March 2013.

New orders decreased by 25% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2017 following a record high in the previous quarter, caused by the awarding of several high-value new orders relating to High Speed 2 (HS2).

Despite the fall in Quarter 4 2017, total new orders increased by 4.3% in 2017, reaching the highest total since 2008, at £55,130 million.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said: “These figures reflect the challenging market conditions and an ongoing skills shortage, which many in the industry, Cruden included, have been signalling for some time now, despite our own hard-won growth figures.

“In order for Scotland’s construction industry to reverse falling output figures, we need to increase the number of people choosing to work in the sector. The Federation of Master Builders recently reported that construction apprentices earn more per year than many of their university graduate counterparts, demonstrating the positive outcomes this career route offers young people in Scotland.

“At Cruden we are proud to introduce many new workers to the diverse range of opportunities this sector offers through our annual apprenticeship programme. We are about to recruit an additional 15 new apprentices across a variety of trades and skills and they will become part of the 50 strong team of apprentices that we train every year.”

The Scottish division of partnership housing provider Lovell predicted a positive outlook for the business in 2018.

Regional managing director for Scotland, Stephen Profili, said: “There is a continuing urgent need for more housing across a range of tenures in Scotland, not least in the affordable housing sector where we are already more than 18 months into the Scottish Government’s five-year target of delivering 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021.

“Lovell’s commitment to long-term partnership working means we are ideally placed to make a real and meaningful contribution towards helping the Scottish Government to achieve that target. We look forward in particular to making important progress on that front this year.”

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