As we predicted last month, earnings have bounced back in February, with increases in every region and across all trades.
"As it is most years, January was slow so growth in February was inevitable." Hudson Contract Managing Director Ian Anfield explains. “Because like most aspects of construction, earnings are cyclical. Activity peaks in December in the rush to get projects signed off before Christmas and then starts slowly in the New Year.
"There is no doubt that Brexit uncertainty is causing a lot of anxiety, and things could get tough because credit is drying up for major contractors. Other factors affecting the demand for labour and rates includes house builders feeling the heat and slowing output after reporting record margins, and the late spell of bad winter weather. Whilst none of these factors can be ignored, our data shows that they are yet to impact for most freelancers on the ground in most regions."
In the Hudson Contract regions, the East Midlands has clawed back over 80% of the January earnings deficit heading back towards the December peak, with London, the East of England, and Yorkshire and Humberside close behind.
And although the biggest percentage rise of 9.8% or £93 a week comes in the West Midlands, it equates only to about half of the drop that has occurred since December. “You can look at it as two steps forward, one step back,” Ian Anfield says. “And in this particular case, I do agree that Brexit and other factors have started to slow demand for skilled construction freelancers in this part of the country.”
|Region||February 2019 Average||Change from January 2019|
|Yorkshire & Humber||£841.00||+7.13%|
|East of England||£945.00||+6.56%|
To view our interactive pay trends map click here
As with the regions, all 17 trades are reporting an increase this month, with the biggest earners:
Across the wider industry statistics, the general narrative continues to revolve around political uncertainty and Brexit. The latest IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Total Activity Index shows a dip for the first time since the ‘Beast from the East’ played havoc last year. Fragile order books, risk aversion, decision-making delays, and the non-replacement of voluntary PAYE leavers all point to reduced confidence. And while housebuilding was the strongest sector, evaporating confidence in the housing market itself is leading to a slowdown in phases being released and sites being put on hold.
Ian Anfield observes: “While the national outlook is slightly downbeat, many Hudson Contract clients continue to be really busy, and have projects in the pipeline. In particular, we’re getting very positive feedback from those working on utilities and civils projects and housing in the North West.
“Brexit is dominating more than just construction at the moment. The date of our supposed EU exit on 29th March is almost upon us, yet the uncertainty continues.
Like most people in business, I believe the worst possible outcome would be continued deadlock, political chaos and a delay. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but the politicians need to start acting for the country, even if it means making some compromises to get Brexit done.”