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Builders spy recovery in repair & maintenance

3 Aug 23 The home improvements boom sparked by covid lockdowns and working from home, that then subsided when Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng crashed the economy, is showing signs of a return.

The latest state of trade survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), whose members typical depend on the repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) sector of the construction industry, report a steady upward trend in RMI building work.

Overall, 40% of FMB members reported an increase in workload during the second quarter of 2023, with only 18% reporting a reduction compared to the first quarter. With a decline in  new-build work, this growth is entirely down to RMI.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry preferred to accentuate the negatives. “While there are plenty of positives to take from this quarter’s state of trade survey, there are still worrying signs for house-builders,” he said. “The fall in house building is worrying because housing supply is a key component of a growing the economy and unlocking a mobile workforce. The Government needs to step up its efforts if its own ambition to build 300,000 each year is to be met because the figure is expected to be less than half than that this year. ”

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He added: “The survey also points towards other areas of concern, with just under half of FMB members saying they expect profits to be lower than expected and around one in five saying they are restricting hiring new staff. With inflation dipping marginally, we’ll need to see over the coming months if this has any positive effects on bottom lines.”

Although more than half of FMB members report that jobs are delayed because they lack skilled workers,  long-standing recruitment difficulties appear to be easing. The survey found that 38% of members are struggling to hire carpenters, 29% are struggling to hire bricklayers and 25% are unable to source general labourers.

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