NI construction SMEs report strong growth amid ongoing political uncertainty

Small construction firms in the north enjoyed strong growth in the second quarter of the year a new FMB survey has revealed
Gareth McKeown

SMALL construction firms in the north enjoyed strong growth in the second quarter of the year, but many have expressed concerns over the ongoing political uncertainty, a new report has revealed.

The latest Federation of Master Builders (FMB) State of the Trade Survey shows the performance of Northern Ireland construction SMEs (a measure of workloads, enquiries and expected workloads) rose by 21 per cent in three months to +47 per cent. Over half (54 per cent) of local builders are positive about the outlook in the industry, with just 7 per cent suggesting a decline in current of future workloads. In spite of the relative positivity more than three quarters of builders expect material prices to continue to rise over the next six months and a large proportion have reported recruitment difficulties. Two-thirds (65 per cent) of construction SMEs said they are struggling to hire bricklayers, while 60 per cent state they are facing problems hiring carpenters.

FMB Northern Ireland director, Gavin McGuire said the latest research shows the local building industry is in "robust health".

"This is the first time over the past two years that Northern Ireland builders have seen two consecutive quarters of rising optimism. These latest results are particularly impressive when you consider the challenges facing all builders in the shape of rising material prices and significant labour shortages."

Mr McGuire believes the resilience of the north's building industry is all the more remarkable given the political uncertainty over Brexit and the ongoing lack of a Stormont Executive. He re-iterated calls for a end to the stalemate at Stormont.

“Construction SMEs have very real concerns about the impact of the ongoing political deadlock in Stormont, and the uncertainty around the outcome of Brexit negotiations. Recent research by FMB NI found that three quarters of SME builders in Northern Ireland believe that if the deadlock in Stormont continues, it will hamper growth."

"Just imagine what Northern Ireland's builders could achieve if we had a working Executive able to take forward major projects and make key decisions about economic development and housing. This would provide much greater confidence for these firms to plan and grow, with enormous long term benefits to Northern Ireland. Stormont must move forward, and we must have more clarity on Brexit in order to ensure that current growth is sustained," Mr McGuire added.

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