THIS WINTER provided a rather nasty shock for those looking to find work in construction.All the early signs through the summer were that construction firms were hungry for more workers, and then, surprisingly, the job market went slightly cold.
This comes through in a whole series of figures and is very evident in this latest Options/Construction News employment survey, which, for the first time, recorded a negative balance between trades finding it easier and those finding it harder to get work.
Last summer, 45 per cent said it was getting easier to find work against 24 per cent who said it was harder, providing a positive balance of 21.This time the balance stands at -7, with the south-east feeling most of the cold. In London the balance was -15, while construction workers in Wales suffered the bleakest winter with a negative balance of -26, as more than a third struggled harder to find a job.
While regionally jobs appear to have been easier to find in the north this winter, the numbers saying it was easier than a year ago equalled those that said it was harder.
Among the trade groups it was only the electricians that noted an improvement in the ease with which jobs could be found. But part of this improvement in job availability is likely to be a bounce back in fortunes after some fairly rough months in the electrical trade, when work was extremely hard to find.
Ironically, while the employers are saying that carpenters are becoming thinner on the ground, the proportion of carpenters claiming it has been harder to find work is higher than any other trade. Plasterers, too, say that it has been tough to find a job this winter.
Despite the cold wind appearing to have blown over London of late, the capital still provides a magnet for workers seeking employment.Almost one third of those interviewed who were working in London had permanent addresses outside the capital or any adjacent regions, and Scots provided the largest contingent of workers from outside London and the south-east to work in the capital.To accommodate the large numbers of workers migrating to London, it has the highest proportion of workers living in digs.
The capital also remains the most popular region for overseas workers.There are indications in the figures that the number of overseas workers is increasing.The percentage recorded in this survey of people who were not educated in the UK rose from 2.3 per cent last summer to 3.5 per cent during the winter. But the numbers are so small compared with the overall sample that one has to be cautious about drawing too many conclusions. By far the heaviest numbers appear to be in London, where immigrant construction workers total almost one in 10.
Construction workers also had to spend more time travelling to work this winter compared with last summer.The proportion taking more than 45 minutes to get to their work rose from 20 per cent to more than 40 per cent, and the proportion taking more than an hour to travel to work rose to 12 per cent from just 4 per cent.
The regions where travel time increased the most were the north-east and Wales, so the winter weather is likely to have played a part in the increase in average travel time.