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FMB Scotland – Construction enquiries fall by half

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Nearly half (47%) of all Master Builder companies reported a fall in enquiries for new work at the end of last year leading to a 15% fall in workloads, according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), for Q4 2023. 


Gordon Nelson, Scotland Director of the FMB said: “The last three months of the calendar year typically don’t yield the best of results for the building industry. The shortening days and the inclement weather combining to dampen builders spirits and stave off potential clients from enquiring about building works. Whilst there is no immediate cause for alarm in the slight decrease in workloads experienced by local building companies across Scotland in Q4 2023, we are eager to see if there will be a rise in enquiries for new works as spring slowly approaches.“


Nelson continued: “With the recent ease in material price increases, our builders will be anxious to see if consumer confidence picks up over the next two or three months. The early spring being so critical to filling a forward pipeline of works for builders. If we see a rise in enquiries for home improvement and refurbishment works, this will be a boon for builders focusing on the domestic sector.”


Nelson concluded: “On a broader scale, our construction industry is vital to driving economic growth across Scotland and it is central to our net zero ambitions. We welcome the recent launch of the new Transformation Action Plan for the Scottish construction sector. It is this collaboration between the government and industry that offers a unique opportunity to move the whole sector forward and build up our local building companies.”


The latest survey for Q4 2023 found:


Scottish Market Conditions


  • Scotland witnessed a slight decrease in overall workloads, dropping from 8% in Q3 2023 to 7% in this quarter.
  • There has been a notable decline in enquiries, with a decrease from a net change of 8% to -13% on balance, indicating a challenging picture ahead.


The report also found across the UK:


Market conditions


  • There has been a decrease in total workload, enquires and employment over Q4 of 2023, in all sectors being worked on by small builders, including repair, maintenance and improvement. 
  • 47% of FMB members reported a decrease in enquiries.
  • Workloads were down 15% on Q3 2023 in the final quarter of last year.


Skills


  • Overall, difficulty in recruitment has slightly decreased, however over a quarter of members report a decrease in employees.
  • 36% of members are struggling to hire carpenters with 34% struggling to hire bricklayers.
  • Just under half of FMB members report that jobs are delayed because they are struggling to hire skilled workers.


Changes in prices and costs


  • 63% of members report that material costs increased in Q4 2023, down from 71% in Q3.
  • The impact of increased outgoings has led to 66% of members increasing the prices they charge, with just under half reporting that the business in on track to make a loss or fall below expected margins.
  • One in five report that they are restricting hiring new staff as a consequence of increased outgoings.

Notes to editors

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is the largest trade association in the UK construction industry representing thousands of firms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Established in 1941 to protect the interests of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms, the FMB is independent and non-profit making, lobbying for members’ interests at both the national and local level.

The FMB is a source of knowledge, professional advice and support for its members, providing a range of modern and relevant business building services to help them succeed. The FMB is committed to raising quality in the construction industry and offers a free Find a Builder service to consumers. 

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