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Freelance Builder Pay Trends: September 2019

Hudson Contract delivers the most accurate indications of pay trends across the construction industry, using payroll data for over 2,200 construction companies to publish the average pay for a spectrum of 17 different trades now split across ten regions.

Subbie earnings fell by an average of £15 a week last month – with rates down almost everywhere.  Freelancers in Yorkshire and Humber were particularly hard hit, with a drop of 2.8%, while – at the other end of the pay scale – Wales bucked the trend, with a 1.1% increase, and those in London and the South-East were only slightly worse off.

The West Midlands continues to top the ‘Earnings League’, while rates in the East Midlands and the East of England are again higher than in London.

“It goes to show the extent to which Brexit jitters are impacting on the capital,” comments Hudson Contract Managing Director Ian Anfield. “So many projects are on ice.  And they will stay that way, until the uncertainty finally comes to an end.

“By contrast, Wales announced seven major infrastructure projects last year, plus a whole range of big construction projects, including a £280m schools programme.”

National Weekly Average Earnings September 2019: £889
Region September 2019 Average Change from August 2019
North East £773.00 -1.9%
North West £839.00 -2.4%
Yorkshire & Humber £825.00 -2.8%
East Midlands £908.00 -2.5%
West Midlands £950.00 -1.6%
Wales £796.00 1.1%
East of England £916.00 -2.2%
London £886.00 -0.7%
South East £897.00 -0.4%
South West £799.00 -1.7%

To view our interactive pay trends map click here

This month’s winners:

  • Roofing: +2.6%
    Cashing in on September’s downpours
  • Scaffolding & Lifting: +1.4%
    Climbing in the North-East
  • Bricklaying: +1.0%
    Back on the upward trend

And the losers:

  • Steel & Timber Frame Erection: -12.2%
    Last month’s increase proves unsustainable
  • Insulation: -6.2%
    August winner, September loser
  • Specialist Trades: -3.9%
    Earnings fall below £1,000 for the first time in four months

From a national perspective, this month’s message is one of gloom and doom, fuelled by escalating Brexit uncertainty.  The latest IHS Markit/CIPS UK survey shows the “Confidence Index” falling to 43.3 (a number over 50 signals growth), with the commercial and civil engineering sectors contracting faster than at any time in the past decade, since the global financial crisis.

“It’s also notable that construction firms are now cutting jobs at the fastest rate since December 2010,” Ian Anfield says.  “They are perhaps preparing themselves for the disruption and impact of both a general election and a no-deal Brexit.  By contrast, our clients, aided by the value-added flexibility delivered by subbies, report that they are not seeing any real evidence of a slowdown.

“Their order books remain full, and it’s more of an issue to get decent lads.  It’s not just the front-end contractors and those involved in housebuilding who are busy, either.  Those who specialise in back-end trades such as cladding on commercial projects also have plenty of work at present, along with orders for 2020.

“And let’s not forget that demand for housing remains high.  We remain way off the annual government target of 300,000 new builds, managing 170,000 completions last year.  Subbies have had an earnings drop this month, but let’s put things in perspective, and remember that many skilled tradespeople – roofers, electricians and plumbers, to name but a few – all over the country continue to earn the equivalent of over £50,000 a year.”

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 September 2019.

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