The latest state of trade survey by the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC) found that 57% of specialist firms saw their orders increase in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 27% a year ago.
The difference between respondents reporting an increase in orders and those reporting a decrease – the balance – reached its highest level since 2000.
Some 59% of specialist contractors said they expect workload to increase during the third quarter and a record high of 72% expect to see an increase over the next 12 months.
84% of respondents reported that they are now working at or above 75% capacity with 43% above 90% capacity. This is leading to difficulties for some firms with 64% experiencing increased supplier prices and 19% reporting they are unable to bid for work due to skills shortages – which is well above the five-year average of 6%.
There was a slight improvement in payment practices this quarter with 16% of specialist contractors getting paid in an average of less than 30 days. This is the highest result ever recorded by the survey.
In another first for the survey, the number of respondents waiting more than 60 days for payment – 14% – was lower than the number receiving payment within 30 days.