China’s slowdown, a falling oil price and uncertainty around the EU referendum – if you were of a ‘glass half empty’ disposition, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to reasons to be fearful.
Luckily though, while red screens on the trading floor tell you everything you need to know about investor reaction to these factors, the men and woman at the coalface of the UK construction sector are made of far sterner stuff and are actually looking to add to their numbers in 2016.
’Keep calm and carry on’ definitely appears to be the order of the day.
Following a survey we conducted of our registered and accredited installer base of 1,800 teams, 53 per cent of companies stated that they planned on increasing their workforce during the year ahead, 47 per cent said they expect to maintain their current workforce levels and none anticipated a reduction in current headcount.
These are important numbers and this survey is a significant leading indicator.
Our installers are drawn from across a number of trades including building, landscaping and fencing, so their confidence and hiring plans speak to a wider optimism at a grassroots level.
“Buoyant consumer confidence and a positive outlook for employment isn’t necessarily just a short-term fillip for the sector”
As you would expect, we welcome this confidence. Our domestic installer order book is running at near-record highs and it is clear there is a real appetite among our customers for new patios, driveways and garden landscaping.
Glass half full
To that end, any expansion plans by our registered installer base is very welcome news for us and a good sign for the UK construction industry as a whole.
This combination of buoyant consumer confidence and a positive outlook for employment in 2016 isn’t necessarily just a short-term fillip for the sector either.
“It’s a big positive for the construction sector that the UK’s tradespeople are looking to grow their workforces”
The CPA’s current forecasts for construction output are for growth over the next three years, while the government is clearly committed to playing its part when it comes to encouraging both residential housebuilding and big-ticket infrastructure investment.
The wider market uncertainty that is buffeting the global economy shouldn’t be taken lightly, of course.
However, with strong levels of domestic demand and a market backdrop that remains well-supported by government policy, it’s a big positive for the construction sector that the UK’s tradespeople are looking to grow their workforces.
Frankly, given some of the headlines, they could be forgiven for sounding the retreat altogether.
Thankfully they’re deciding to hire in a market they can do very good business in.
Martyn Coffey is the chief executive of Marshalls