Freelance Builder Pay Trends: May 2020

Demand for labour recovers as more sites reopen

Hudson Contract delivers the most accurate indications of pay trends across the construction industry, using monthly payroll data for more than 2,500 construction companies to publish the average pay for a spectrum of 17 different trades now split across ten regions.

As the largest payer of subcontractors in the construction industry, we can report the number of tradespeople we paid increased by more than 40 per cent in May with the reopening of more building sites.

Labour demand had fallen by up to 70 per cent during the April lockdown, according to analysis of our payroll data.

Projects are still going ahead

Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson, said: “The good news is demand has recovered and will continue to do so as more sites reopen. Infrastructure, utilities and some large commercial projects are still going ahead.

“The big concern is over the housing sector, where we are seeing large housing schemes being split into smaller phases - such as 500-home sites becoming 100-home sites - and complex or risky projects being land-banked.

“There is reduced productivity across some sites as a result of quotas on the number of operatives allowed on site at any one time, which is driving down rates available to sub-contractors and making it difficult to price future work.

Stimulate the housing market

"The recovery in demand for construction labour could be a dead cat bounce without intervention from the Government to stimulate the housing market.”

Analysis of Hudson payroll data shows average weekly earnings of £827 for freelancers in May, compared to £734 in April.

The best-performing regions for earnings growth were the South West and Wales (up 6.5 per cent) and the North East (up 4 per cent).

National Weekly Average Earnings May 2020: £827
Region May 2020 Average Month on Month % Change Year on Year % Change
North East £728 26.0% 4.0% 
North West £795 12.9% -0.4% 
Yorkshire & Humber £753 16.9% -2.6% 
East Midlands £814 0.7% -3.9% 
West Midlands £907 21.9% 3.3% 
Wales £816 15.7% 6.5% 
East of England £876 7.9% -0.3% 
London £861 6.4% 0.9% 
South East £876 13.3% 3.6% 
South West £784 19.5% 6.5% 

To view our interactive pay trends map click here

Our industry is very agile

Mr Anfield added: “Despite the negative media coverage that construction often gets, our industry is very agile and did not grind to a halt during the lockdown.

“Our clients are dynamic SMEs run by smart people who are figuring out new ways to work in these new conditions.

“The UK still needs new roads, new infrastructure and new housing and the construction industry will step up and deliver in any circumstances.”

Hudson Contract is supplying statistics to the Bank of England to keep policymakers updated with real-time insights on demand for skilled labour.

Our latest Pay Trends release was highlighted in The Sunday Times by Economics Editor David Smith, who quoted the figures in his widely-respected column.

This month’s winners:

  • Shop fitting +46.6%

  • Steel and timber frame erection +43.3%

  • Roofing +23.5%

This month's losers:

  • Plumbing -4.5%

  • Specialist trades 3.1%

  • Joinery 3.5%

Hudson Contract’s ‘Window on the Construction Industry’ gives you hard figures and data that is not available from any other source, with pay averages that reflect the amounts paid by a sample number of businesses – large and small – to specific trades during 2020.

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