Construction firms optimistic about economy and Brexit but skills crisis a concern, study reveals

While the construction industry is more optimistic about the economy than other sectors with almost three quarters of firms expecting to grow in 2017, the skills shortage remains a concern with a quarter of construction businesses struggling to recruit.

The Business Census 2017 report found that more than half (66 per cent) of construction companies were confident about the UK economy, higher than any other major industry.

The annual survey of 1,300 firms, carried out by the business data website Company Check during November and December found that just a quarter of construction firms said the vote to leave the European Union had had a negative impact on their business. A further 11 per cent said the impact had been positive while 61 per cent said it had made no difference; higher than any other sector.

Katie Deverill, from Company Check, said: “The Business Census lets us ‘take the temperature’ of the UK’s construction industry to understand the big challenges they’re going to be facing during the next 12 months. The findings show Brexit hasn’t had the chilling effect that it’s had in other areas, with high levels of optimism for the year ahead.

“However there’s also high levels of disaffection with local authorities when it comes to them supporting and nurturing business growth. The powers that be should take note of these figures and recognise that something in the current system just isn’t working.”

Compared to 64 per cent of construction companies who said they grew in 2016, 74 per cent said they expected to grow this year. Across all industries that figure was 73 per cent. While just 18 per cent said they feared economic decline next year, making it the most optimistic industry.

However, more businesses in construction said they were affected by the issue of recruitment last year than any other industry (25 per cent) and the same is true for 2017, albeit at at a lower 14 per cent.

Commenting on the figures, Construction Industry Council chairman, Prof John Nolan, said: “I am not at all surprised by these figures.

"My practice registered a substantial boom in new enquiries immediately following the EU referendum result and that level of increased enquires has continued. Most of my peers in Built Environment Professions have also reported an increase in enquires.

"Our biggest concern now is finding sufficient quality staff to meet this increased demand.”

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