'Two-tier' construction market as private sector workloads increase but public-funded activity declines
WORKERS currently established in the building trade in the north are enjoying increased workloads - but fewer companies in the sector are taking on new staff, a survey says.
The latest quarterly construction trade barometer from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and legal firm Tughans has thrown up some anomalies, with overall construction workloads in the private sector rising but infrastructure activity and public sector work continuing in freefall, blamed by respondents on the lack of decision-making in government.
Private industrial activity also saw a fall in activity, according to surveyors, but the overall workload balance was pushed into positive territory by rises in activity in the private commercial sector and in private housing.
But when it comes to both workloads and employment Northern Ireland respondents to the survey are the least optimistic in the UK about the next 12 months
Jim Sammon, Northern Ireland construction spokesman for RICS, said: "While it is encouraging to see rises in the private housing, private commercial sector and public housing sub-sectors, the picture across other areas, particularly infrastructure, continues to cause concern.
"Infrastructure and public non-housing workloads are in decline, which is an indication of the impact the lack of local government decision-making is having on the ground.
"It's not surprising surveyors feel a lack of optimism around workloads compared with the rest of the UK. In addition to being worried about the pipeline of public infrastructure work, their confidence is being impacted by the ongoing noise around Brexit."
Michael McCord from Tughans said: "It appears there is a two-tier construction market at present, with some private sector activity forging ahead, while surveyors report declines in infrastructure and other publicly-funded activity.
"When we look at the cranes in the skyline around Belfast city centre and the number of houses being built across Northern Ireland, it's not hard to understand the rises in private commercial activity and housebuilding in the last quarter. But new infrastructure work has flat-lined."