Cautious construction firms opt for temps amid uncertainty, says new report

Jan Crosby, UK head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG.

The latest Report on Jobs, published this month by KPMG and the Recruitment Employers Confederation, highlighted a ninth successive monthly decline in permanent staff vacancies in the construction sector, whereas demand for temporary staff rose for the first time since June.

Although demand for permanent construction workers waned, the rate of deterioration was marginal and the weakest observed in this period, with the respective seasonally adjusted index rising from 46.4 to 49.6 in December. At the same time, there was a modest increase in demand for permanent staff across all sectors nationwide (52.1), with construction ranking ninth out of the ten monitored job sectors (ahead of retail).

By contrast, December data signalled the first increase in demand for temporary construction staff in six months. Adjusted for seasonality, the respective index rose from 47.4 in November to 52.3 in December, pointing to a modest upturn in vacancies, albeit one that was weaker than the national trend (53.2). Out of the ten monitored job categories, construction placed sixth in terms of temporary staff demand.

The report findings suggest construction firms sought to recruit temporary workers amid ongoing uncertainty last month – with the UK general election taking place on 12th December – while holding off on permanent hires.

Jan Crosby, UK head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG, said: “It appears that while demand for workers is increasing, firms are turning to temporary staff as a solution. We suspect this is a symptom of Brexit and the continued economic uncertainty, with companies showing a reluctance to hire for full time positions until we’re in a period of sustained stability.

“The need for more workers is an encouraging sign for the construction sector on the whole, given activity has been muted in recent months and the jobs market has taken a hit as a result of a slowdown in incoming projects.

“The coming weeks and months will be crucial as many construction businesses seek to understand how Brexit will affect a market so dependent on labour from overseas,” said Crosby.

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