RMI work increases while house building lags, says FMB

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders

Data from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) shows an upward trend in repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) building work in the second quarter of this year, despite its members having reported lower workloads and enquiries. In the latest State of Trade Survey (Q2 2023), 40% of FMB members reported an increase in workload; 18% reported a reduction compared to last quarter. “House building has been hit badly,” the FMB’s chief executive has explained.

“While there are plenty of positives to take from this quarter’s State of Trade Survey, there are still worrying signs for house builders,” said Brian Berry, the FMB’s chief executive. “Workloads are up, driven by a strong RMI sector, and encouragingly we’re also seeing pressure on obtaining skilled labour easing.

“House building has been hit badly. Despite a slight increase on last quarter, more members are reporting less work than they are more, and enquiries continue to look bleak.

“The fall in house building is worrying because housing supply is a key component of a growing the economy and unlocking a mobile workforce. The government needs to step up its efforts if its own ambition to build 300,000 each year is to be met, because the figure is expected to be less than half than that this year.

“The survey also points towards other areas of concern, with just under half of FMB members saying they expect profits to be lower than expected, and around one in five saying they are restricting hiring new staff. With inflation dipping marginally, we’ll need to see over the coming months if this has any positive effects on bottom lines.”

Other findings from the latest FMB survey for Q2 2023 include:
• 38% of members are struggling to hire carpenters with 29% struggling to hire bricklayers.
• More than half of FMB members reported that jobs are being delayed because they are struggling to hire skilled workers.
• 79% of members reported that material costs increased in Q2 2023; 72% expect this to continue into the next quarter.
• Increased outgoings has led to 69% of members increasing their prices. Just under half of FMB members reported that their business is on track to make a loss.
• 19% reported that they are restricting hiring new staff due to increased outgoings.

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