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Northern Ireland and Scotland hit hardest

Companies in Scotland and Northern Ireland are bearing the brunt of declining workloads, according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders.

Regional figures based on workload, expected workload and enquiries, weighted by each organisation’s size, show Scotland and Northern Ireland with net balances of -51 and -52 respectively in the final quarter of 2010. A net balance of zero would indicate equal proportions of positive and negative answers.

Experts blamed the regional difficulties on “self-contained” economies and reduced public sector stimulus, effects that are likely to continue well into 2011.

NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “Scotland has quite a self-contained construction industry so if the economy is not performing well it affects all construction.

“There seems to be more fluidity in the English construction market when it comes to moving into different areas and markets.”

Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis said: “It’s likely Scotland and Northern Ireland are showing some effects of public sector stimulus falling away. Northern Ireland has been particularly reliant on this.”

He added: “Housing has also fallen away quite sharply in these areas.”

Net balances were negative across nearly all 12 regions, with the largest falls in net balances in Scotland and the West Midlands, declining by 40 and 35 points respectively.

Yorkshire & Humber was the only region to see an improvement in its net balance, although experts say this is due to an anomaly caused by one or two particularly large contracts.

Scotland has fallen to its most negative net balance since the first quarter of 2009, having seen sentiment deteriorate markedly during the final quarter of the year.

Just 6 per cent of responses reported positive sentiment, compared with 26 per cent three months ago. Around 57 per cent of responses were negative, an increase from 36 per cent in the third quarter of the year.

Following an improvement in the three months to September 2010, the net balance for Wales deteriorated by 21 points to -23.

Just over 15 per cent of responses were positive in England, compared with 24 per cent three months ago.


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