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  /  Architecture   /  Technology   /  Labour availability to worsen as vacancies hit 20-year high
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Labour availability to worsen as vacancies hit 20-year high

Labour availability is expected to drop in the coming months as vacancies hit a 20-year high.

There were on average 35,000 construction job vacancies in March to May, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is the highest level in the 20 years of data the ONS has and a jump on the 29,000 recorded in the previous period of February to April.

Darin Burrows, director of London construction recruitment agency City Site Solutions, said demand for workers has picked up in recent months: “It stepped up the pace at the start of May and each day we just get more clients enquiring about labour,” he said.

Construction Products Association economics director Professor Noble Francis said three sectors were seeing particularly strong demand: “A part of the high level of vacancies is due to the high demand in certain regions and in sectors, primarily housebuilding, housing refurbishment and infrastructure on major projects. These are sectors in which output is considerably higher than pre-COVID,” he said.

There were on average 35,000 construction job vacancies in March to May, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is the highest level in the 20 years of data the ONS has and a jump on the 29,000 recorded in the previous period of February to April.

City Site has around 800 workers on its books and supplies labour mainly for fit-out jobs. Burrows said the number of available workers has dropped partly due to foreign-born workers leaving the UK following the country’s exit from the EU, and partly due to some opting to take government grants rather than paid jobs.

He added that the situation was unlikely to improve for a number of months. Many Eastern European-born workers tend to return to their home countries for the summer and the continuation of the government’s furlough scheme until September mean supply levels are expected to remain low. “I’m hoping if we can get through until September we’ll see an upturn in available labour,” Burrows said.

As of the end of April, around 166,000 people working in the construction industry were on furlough, according to HMRC.

Today’s new ONS data reported that the industry had 2.22m workers in the first quarter of 2021, 100,000 fewer than the 2.32m employed in the first quarter of 2020.

Low availability is increasing competition for workers and pushing up prices, Burrows said. Data from the ONS shows that the average weekly earnings for people in the construction industry has jumped almost 14 per cent between April 2020, when the UK was in lockdown, and April 2021. It is the highest increase recorded in any industry.

Rising labour costs come as the industry continues to experience double-digit inflation for some construction materials.

This post was originally written by constructionnews.co.uk. To read the original article, please click here.