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Construction employment drops but prospects are promising

While official data points to a drop in construction employment over the past five years, figures from show that employers are increasing their advertised vacancies.

The latest figures from reveal a steady rise in permanent and temporary job vacancies advertised directly by employers over the course of 2013.

Meanwhile, official data show that vacancy rates were far below those registered before the downturn, though they have remained stable over the past two years.

The number of jobs filled in the industry remains depressed. Despite rising slightly according to the most recent estimates, latest figures are at the same level as those seen more than 10 years ago.

Construction jobs filled Q1 08-Q1 13 ONS

Source: ONS

The number of jobs filled in the construction industry rose over the quarter to March 2013 to 1.99m, compared with 1.98m in the previous quarter, according to the latest labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics. The data represents a rise of 0.6 per cent over the quarter but was still 2.6 per cent lower than the same period of 2012.

Decline in construction jobs filled

Construction jobs filled for Q1 2013 and Q4 2012 remained lower than those seen since mid-2002, the last time the figure dipped below 2m jobs filled in the industry.

“Looking over the past five years, by Q1 2013 the industry has 258,000 fewer employee jobs filled than Q1 2008”

Looking over the past five years, the figures suggest that as of Q1 2013, the industry had 258,000 fewer employee jobs filled than Q1 2008, before the downturn started to take hold.

The number of self-employed workers in the industry was 49,000 lower in Q1 2013 than the same period five years earlier.

Construction vacancy rates were around 13,000 in the three months to May 2013, 4.3 per cent lower than the same period in 2012, and this has dipped from around 28,000 five years earlier.

Construction vancancy rates 08-13 ONS

Source: ONS

The figures further suggest the industry has skimmed back on its workforce, highlighting the concern over a potential skills shortage when activity and demand do recover.

Increase in employer job vacancies

However, construction firms have increased the number of vacancies they are directly advertising compared with the end of last year amid cautious optimism in some quarters.

Figures from show the number of permanent vacancies advertised directly by employers has risen from 1,460 at the end of last year to 1,935 in the three months to May 2013. By contrast, there were 73 fewer contract roles over the period, while the number of temporary positions increased.  

Contract roles attracted the most competition by the end of May 2013, with an average of nine people applying for every vacancy. Contrastingly, just six prospective employees on average were applying for each permanent position available.

The sector with the most live vacancies was engineering, unsurprising given the potential infrastructure workload in the pipeline.

There were 2,641 live engineering vacancies posted directly by employers between January and May 2013, more than 1,000 higher than all other sectors put together. Construction management was the next highest, at 769, followed by building services.

Architectural roles saw the most competition, with 22 applications on average per vacancy.

Each engineering job attracted on average seven applications during the five months to May, while construction management and building services roles saw 16 per job and 17 applications per job respectively.

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