Significantly, private housing saw a material reduction in the number of surveyors reporting falling workloads. As recently as the final quarter of last year, 66% more surveyors were reporting a fall in workloads. This figure lessened to 49% in the first three months of the year and 28% in the second quarter but is now at just 5%.
Interestingly, surveyors are a little more positive about the outlook for over the next 12 months with 9% more respondents expecting output to rise than fall – the first positive reading since the first quarter of 2008. Although employment is thought likely to fall a little further, the net balance of respondents expecting to see a reduced headcount narrowed to just 3% compared with 24% in the second quarter and 46% in the first three months of the year.
Despite this, the proportion of surveyors reporting skill shortages for trades persons fell to 2%, the lowest reading since the question was first asked in 1998.
Looking forward, confidence regarding the outlook for workloads over the next 12 months is most positive in Wales followed by the Midlands, East Anglia and London and the South East. Surveyors are most pessimistic in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist said: "With development finance currently still in short supply it is hardly surprising that workloads in the construction industry remain under pressure. The good news is that the picture does not appear to be getting very much worse and there is even a little bit more optimism about the prospects. However the continuing squeeze on profit margins in the sector is a concern alongside the likely scaling back in government projects over the coming years.
"Sadly there is little evidence as yet that residential home starts are picking up which is a particular worry given that a shortage of stock is contributing to the recent rebound in house prices."
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