10th October 2019

Summer didn’t happen – Brexit uncertainty sparks slump in construction hiring

Compared to last year, over the summer the number of new construction jobs filled halved.

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Summer didn’t happen – Brexit uncertainty sparks slump in construction hiring

This year, the annual increase in construction hiring over the summer didn’t happen, according to recruiter Randstad.  The three summer months of June, July, and August usually see approximately 30% of all permanent annual recruitment jobs filled in the construction sector (2018: 29%).  But this year, the summer made up just 16% of the previous 12 months’ recruitment placements, as projects are put on hold or work slowed.

Owen Goodhead, managing director of Randstad Construction Property & Engineering, said: “In construction, about 30% of all annual placements are made over the three summer months.  But 2019 was different.  This year, summer didn’t happen.  It was dismal.  The new jobs market has been devastated.

“The construction jobs market has been doing well since the referendum.  We found 23% more jobs for people in 2017 than we did in 2016.  And 2018 was better than 2017.  But the uncertainty and the delayed projects are now catching up with the industry – even house building which had been looking pretty robust.  

“Parliamentary chaos and indecision within the Palace of Westminster has pulled the rug from under the feet of the construction industry.  The entire course of the construction industry is now being set by Brexit as clients cut budgets and property developers delay decision-making. The Prime Minister, the government, and parliamentarians must all take heed.  MPs need to agree a Brexit plan between them OR let us leave without a deal OR move a vote of no confidence OR agree to an election.  Until one of those things happen, the British labour market is going to keep running out of steam.”


Pay still ok

While the number of job vacancies falls, pay in construction is still holding up, as the supply of EU labour dwindles.  Average pay rose to £51,900 in the 12 months to 1st September 2019, from £49,800 last year – an increase of 4%.

Jobs for the site managers, project managers, quantity surveyors & handymen

In the 12 months to 1st September 2018, 31% of site manager hires were made in the three summer months.  This year, it was 15%.  

Hardest hit were Senior Site Managers roles where 12% of the 12 months’ hires were made – rather than 40% the year before.  

At the other end of the spectrum, in the 12 months to 1st September 2018, 37% of Assistant Site Manager hires were made in the three summer months.  This year, it was just 9%.  

Just 15% of the project management placements were made this summer – compared to 24% in the year to 1st September 2018.  

Pay in project management has increased from £63,700 in the year to 1st September 2018 to £64,300.  Average pay across site management is up from £49,100 last year to £50,200.

The slowdown has affected many of the professions associated with the industry, including Quantity Surveyors.  In the 12 months to 1st September 2018, 26% of hires were made in the three summer months.  This year, it was 23%.  Hardest hit were Senior Quantity Surveyors where 8% of the 12 months’ hires were made over the summer – rather than 36% the year before.  

Average pay in quantity surveying is up from £52,200 to £56,700, an increase of 9%.

The situation is worse for Maintenance Engineers and Handymen where only 13% of the previous twelve months hires happened over the 3 summer months, compared to 23% in 2018.  

Other construction roles, such as section engineers, site engineers, and labourers are also seeing the number of vacancies fall.  But Site Engineers have at least seen their pay rise – from £40,800 to £44,800 – with Labourers seeing similar increases.

Owen Goodhead said: “Parliamentary and political paralysis is leading to widespread delays with spending decisions and encouraged risk aversion across the construction sector.  Our clients are trying to hold back on all but essential repair and maintenance work.

“If the work looks like it’s drying up, EU workers who were undecided about staying or leaving until now may be more likely to up sticks and head home.  While that is propping up pay, it will also make it harder, in a post Brexit environment, to ramp construction back up again.”

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