UK Construction Sector Rises Up Against Covid-19

It appears that despite coronavirus remaining in the UK, the construction sector is one industry rising against the odds to prove its resilience. 

The first set of data to back-up the reports came from The Construction Industry Purchasing Managers Index, published by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institue of Purchasing and Supply. 

Purchasing in the construction sector rose to 58.1 on the index in July, from a reading of 55.3 in the previous month of June. This figure was well above the expected mark of 57 that economists had predicted. 

For the UK government, this will come as a welcome rise, as the goverment has been relying on the construction industry to get the economy moving again post-covid. 

Further data released by Hudson Contract, also shows that more specifically UK SME construction companies have recovered more strongly in the sector, indicating they are more adaptable and agile than their larger counterparts. 

One of the critical reasons for the difference between large and small has been the scale of the projects. 

Larger construction companies typically have enormous running costs and labour needs for complicated builds. Many of which are in highly populated areas and require a high volume of workers. 

SME’s Demand More People

In the data released by Hudson Contract the positive sign from SME construction companies was the increase in recruitment and labour needs. Many small, micro, and medium companies are investing in skilled subcontractors to ensure productive labour continues, and jobs get finished. 

At present the best performing regions for the rise in construction activity is Wales (up 12%), Yorkshire (up 9.9%), and the East of England and South East (up 7.8%). 

With more SME construction companies getting back to business, the rise in skilled recruitment is gradually moving alongside to provide support and skills where needed.

Larger Companies Will Follow 

On the flip-side it may feel that the larger construction companies are not faring as well, with regular reports of redundancies and job cuts. 

However, when you dig deeper it’s clear that many of the innovative and growing larger construction companies are lapping up the left behind labour. Skansa’s CEO condemned many of the large construction companies for being ‘short-sighted’ and not looking at the longterm plan. 

The larger construction companies will soon follow the rise of the SME’s, as many are now securing huge projects that will quickly turn things around. For example, London council has unveiled a new £300m modular housing project that will begin this year, and Wilmott Dixon will commence on Manchester City College in the coming months. 

Some larger construction companies have even gone as far as to prepare for a second-wave to ensure they remain stable and active. 

Bouygues UK revealed recently to Construction News that they have been radically changing their working processes and operations to not only protect their teams but to ensure they can continue working through a possible second-wave. For example, Bouygues is now using thermal imaging on sites to ensure the health of its workers. 

Without a doubt, it’s been a turbulent time for the construction industry but appears many are learning their lessons and looking at how the sector can thrive in a post-pandemic world. 

Continuing on the theme of good news reports that residential building will soon be underway again in many local areas means the construction sector in its entirety will be pulling up the UK economy into a recovery post-covid. 

As Boris Johnson declared in his speech to get the UK back on its feet, “we must build, build, build.”  And that is exactly what appears to be happening across the sector.