The Civil Engineering Contractors Association has hailed an unexpected upswing in the civils sector with over a quarter of its members reporting an increase in their workloads.
According to Ceca’s latest Workload Trends survey – the first to be carried out under the new coalition Government – 27 per cent of respondents reported a an increase in workload compared to the same period last year.
The results of the survey, which was carried out in June and July, also showed 51 per cent of firms reporting a lower workload this year.
The balance between the two figures, -24 per cent, is a significant improvement on the -59 per cent balance reported in April and the -77 per cent balance reported in January 2010.
Ceca said the improvement was largely driven by those sub-sectors that are dominated by private sector clients.
Workload in the water sector improved from a balance of -63 per cent in April to -25 per cent in July, with similar gains in electricity (-53 to -12 per cent) and preliminary works (-48 per cent to -18 per cent) while communications built on its positive workload balance in April, rising from + 2 per cent to + 12 per cent in July.
However, Ceca members have reported that public sector workloads continued to drop, with strategic roads work down to -51 per cent from -21 per cent in April. Similarly, local road works has dropped slightly to -54 per cent from -50 per cent.
Just 14 per cent of the firms surveyed predicted an increase in work in the year to come while 45 per cent said they were anticipating a decline in their workloads.
Ceca’s head of industry affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “At a time when the industry is still struggling to bounce back from the recession, any improvement in contractors’ workloads is welcome.
“However, we need to treat this apparent upswing with caution. The results remain in negative territory with only those sub-sectors of the industry that rely on private sector clients showing any improvement.
“Even here there is no guarantee that this recovery will be sustained. Civil engineering contractors will face a difficult time over the next few years, particularly as the impact of public sector spending cuts starts to bite.”