The recovery seen in the trade association’s latest Workload Trends Survey follows a significant rebound in the previous quarter, which also saw workloads and order books on an upwards trend.
More than half of contractors reported workloads had increased in Scotland, with contractors across Great Britain as a whole also reporting rising workloads, following two quarters of decline. Order books are also picking up, with two-thirds of Scottish contractors reporting an increase.
Scottish contractors also reported employment rising for all types of worker, with employment balances hitting a five-year high and an upbeat outlook and expectations for the future. Over half of Scotland's contractors - a near seven-year high - expected employment of operatives to increase over the coming year.
CECA Scotland chief executive Grahame Barn said: “Our latest Workload Trends Survey builds on the positive news last quarter and gives us hope that the green shoots of recovery are now firmly embedded. We are cautiously optimistic that 2021 will see workloads continue to rise, which is great news for all in the sector and will help us rebuild the industry and shape Scotland's post Covid-19 recovery.”
Tender price balances for new construction work (45%) and repairs and maintenance (55%) were at multi-year highs in Q4.
Workloads in Scotland increased, on balance, for a second consecutive quarter in Q4, even though a tiered system of coronavirus restrictions was in place. On balance, 23% of respondents reported an increase in workloads on a year ago, compared to a balance of 39% in Q3. More than half (52%) of all respondents reported that workloads had increased, and 30% reported that workloads had fallen.
In Scotland, a balance of 36% of respondents reported that orders had increased in Q4 compared to a year earlier. Overall, two-thirds of respondents reported that orders had increased, and 31% reported a fall.
In 2020 Q4, Scotland was the only nation of the UK to report positive balances for all types of worker. On balance, employment of other operatives, skilled operatives and staff rose according to 45%, 41% and 33% of firms, respectively. These balances improved from those recorded in Q3 and were the highest in five years.
In Scotland, 45% of firms, on balance, reported that tender prices for new work increased in Q4 compared to a year earlier, the highest in nearly four years. 48% of all respondents reported higher tender prices and half reported no change.
In Scotland, 55% of respondents, on balance, reported that tender prices for repair and maintenance work were higher compared to a year earlier, up from 22% in Q3 and the highest in nearly five years.
In Scotland, workload expectations for the year ahead in 2021 turned positive in Q4. On balance, 14% of firms expected workloads to increase over the next 12 months. Overall, 43% of the respondents expected workloads to remain unchanged, and 36% expected workloads to increase.
The 12-month outlook for new orders improved in the final quarter of 2020. 26% of Scottish firms, on balance, expected orders for new work to increase over the next 12 months, and for R&M orders, 21% expected an increase, the highest balance in five years.
In Scotland, civil engineering firms’ sentiment towards hiring in the next 12 months remained positive in Q4. On balance, 55% of firms (near seven-year high) expected employment of operatives to increase, and 36% (five-year high) also expected staff employment to increase over the coming year. In Britain, on balance, 53% of firms expected employment of operatives to increase and 51% expected staff employment to rise. Both balances were the highest in nearly six years.
In Scotland, 83% of respondents, on balance, reported that costs increased over the last 12 months, up from 72% in Q3. Two thirds of Scottish firms reported that costs had increased by up to 5% and 17% by more than 5%, whilst no firms reported that costs had fallen
In Scotland, the most cited supply issue in Q4 was skilled operatives (55%), followed by other operatives (33%), staff (21%) and materials/products (21%). For materials/products, this was the joint-highest proportion since 2015 Q3. The survey also found that 5% of firms cited issues with plant in Q4.
The number of contractors taking part in CECA’s 2020 Q4 Scotland survey totalled 18. The survey responses are weighted by size of firm to ensure that results are representative of the industry. The results displayed are typically weighted balances and are calculated by taking the difference between firms reporting an increase in workloads, for example, and the proportion of firms experiencing a fall.