Civil engineering contractors have reported a surprise upswing in workloads since the Coalition Government was formed three months.
In the first Civil Engineering Contractors' Association workload trends survey since the election, the balance between those reporting falls in work and those reporting rises has swung back towards positive territory.
However, the majority of contractors are still reporting that they have less work now than they did at the same point in 2009.
In the survey, which was carried out in June and July, 51% of firms reported lower workloads, while 27% reported higher workloads.
The balance between the two figures was -24%, a significant improvement on the -59% balance reported in April. This in turn was an improvement on the -77% balance reported in January 2010 and the -64% in October 2009.
This improvement was largely driven by the utilities. Workload in the water sector improved from a balance of -63% in April to -25% in July, with similar gains in electricity (-53 to -12%), while communications built on its positive workload balance in April, rising from + 2% to + 12% in July.
However, CECA members reported strategic roads work down to -51% from -21% in April. Similarly, local road works has dropped slightly to -54% from -50%.
Workloads are expected to decline in the year to come, with 45% of companies anticipating lower workload and just 14% predicting increased work.
Alasdair Reisner, head of industry affairs, said: “At a time when the industry is still struggling to bounce back from the recession, any improvement in contractors’ workloads is welcome.
“However, we need to treat this apparent upswing with caution. The results remain in negative territory with only those sub-sectors of the industry that rely on private sector clients showing any improvement. Even here there is no guarantee that this recovery will be sustained. Civil engineering contractors will face a difficult time over the next few years, particularly as the impact of public sector spending cuts starts to bite.”