2 in 3 builders’ workloads stagnant or declining, warns FMB

2 in 3 builders’ workloads stagnant or declining, warns FMB

A Budget for Britain’s builders is needed to boost slowing workloads and to reverse contracting enquiries and employment, warns the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). 

Data from the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey for November to December 2020, the only survey of its kind to track the experience of small to medium-sized (SME) construction firms across the UK, found:


  • 1 in 3 (27%) builders reported lower workloads in Q4, rising from 21% in the previous quarter
  • 4 in 10 (42%) reported no change in workload, continuing a sluggish recovery from the pandemic


  • Employment dropped back into negative territory after growing for just two months in 2020
  • 23% of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners
  • 22% are struggling to hire bricklayers

Prices and costs

  • 82% of respondents reported material price increases
  • Yet just 29% of builders are increasing the prices they charge for work, down from 37% in Q3, meaning more small firms are taking the hit as costs remain high

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey of its members across the UK reveals that 27% of builders experienced falling workloads in the last two months of 2020. Given the Government’s commitments to ‘build back better’, next month’s Budget needs to support the construction sector to help create much needed jobs and to propel the economy forward.

“The Chancellor must use the Budget to cut VAT on home improvements, to make it easier for households to get works done, including green upgrades. An extension of the Stamp Duty holiday is also essential to breathe new confidence into the housing market.”

Brian concluded: “Given that one in four builders is struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters the Government should be encouraging people looking for new opportunities to consider the construction industry. However, builders need greater support to train while contending with rising material prices. The Government needs to extend the apprenticeship grant uplift beyond March 2021 so that SMEs are rewarded for their training at this difficult time.”

A full copy of the report is available here: FMB State of Trade Survey Q4 2020.pdf

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