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Mon May 27 2024

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Demand for groundworkers suggests swift recovery

16 Jul 20 Demand for groundworkers, a leading indicator of housebuilding activity, has passed the pre-lockdown peak, suggesting that UK construction could be on the way to a rapid V-shaped recovery.

Recovery in sight?
Recovery in sight?

Analysis of payroll data by Hudson Contract, the industry’s biggest payer of subcontractors, shows the number of groundworks operatives paid in the week beginning 29th June reached 6,467.

This compares to the previous high of 6,261 in the week of 16th March, just before lockdown, and the low of 1,735 in the week of 20th April.

Groundworkers typically prepare construction sites for the shallow foundations of new homes.

Hudson Contract managing director Ian Anfield said: “Every trade follows the groundworkers so they are the best indicator of what is happening.

“We are quite surprised at these findings because a number of our large clients have not yet returned to full capacity with their labour needs. But many smaller construction firms are very busy as a result of pent-up demand to complete smaller housing developments.

“Our field agents tell us that housebuilding activity is recovering strongly in places like Greater Manchester but more slowly in the East Midlands.

“Interestingly, we paid more operatives with Leicester postcodes after the second lockdown was announced than we did before the measures were reintroduced.”

Overall, labour demand dropped to 30% of capacity during April but has now recovered to 74%, according to Hudson.

Meanwhile, earnings for subcontractors continued to recover last month.

Analysis of Hudson payroll data for more than 2,500 construction companies shows average weekly earnings of £848 for freelancers in June, compared to £827 in May and £734 in April.

Regions showing the most earnings growth were the southwest (+12%), London (+7.4%) and the northeast (+4.4%).

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