Wages in construction skyrocket amid recruitment crisis and Brexit fears - REC

Filed under Press release

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Bricklayers are taking home up to £1,000 a week as building firms compete for workers to keep UK infrastructure and housebuilding projects on track, according to a survey of construction recruitment firms by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).  


More than six in ten recruitment agencies (63 per cent) say that demand for temporary construction workers has increased over the last year. Seven in ten (69 per cent) say that the shortage of bricklayers, labourers and other tradesmen is now the first or second most significant risk to their business.


More than four in ten firms (43 per cent) say that finding bricklayers is particularly difficult. Recruiters supplying London-based clients especially report rising wages as a result, with bricklayers earning between £15-25 an hour in the capital.


Looking ahead, construction recruiters predict that a vote to leave the EU would exacerbate the shortage of candidates. Fifty-nine per cent say that a Brexit would make it more difficult to find suitable workers to fill vacancies, while only five per cent believe the situation would be improved.


These finding follow the latest employment data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which shows a year-on-year increase in wages in the construction sector of 7.5 per cent excluding bonuses. ONS data also reveals that in December 2015 there were 2,238,000 jobs in construction, making up 6.6 per cent of all jobs. The construction sector was the second biggest job creator last year, accounting for 25 per cent of job growth in 2015.


REC Chief Executive Kevin Green says:


“If you work in construction you can expect to be earning £34 a week more than last year, and our data indicates that some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition for skilled workers intensifies.


“Whilst this is great news for builders and tradesmen, there are hard questions that need to be asked about the sustainability of this trend. The UK is close to full employment and building firms are already struggling to find the people needed for major infrastructure projects. If Britain leaves the EU there’s no doubt that recruitment for some construction roles will become even more of a challenge.  


“Whatever the outcome of the EU referendum we need to address deep-seated skills shortages. That means more apprenticeships, greater investment in skills development by employers, better careers guidance in schools, and more work experience opportunities so that young people are shown the potential benefits of a career in construction.” 




Notes to editors:


1. In April 2016 the REC surveyed member agencies that supply staff to the construction sector. Thirty-two per cent of respondents place 100-300 temp staff every week, and 14 per cent of respondents place 300+ temp staff every week.


In London specifically, 38 per cent of recruitment firms place 100-300 temp staff every week, and 6 per cent place 300+ temp staff every week.            


Thinking about the last 12 months, demand for temporary construction workers has: (Select one)

Total businesses: 43


a)   Increased significantly                        23%

b)   Increased a little                                  40%

c)   Stayed the same                                 16%

d)   Decreased a little                                19%

e)   Decreased significantly                      2%


Which vacancies do you currently struggle to fill due to a shortage of suitable candidates? (Multiple choice)

Total businesses: 44


a)   Surveyor                                             55%

b)   Other trades                                        50%

c)   Bricklayer                                            43%

d)   Project manager                                 34%

e)   Labour/General operative                   20%

f)   Architect                                              14%


What is the average hourly pay rate that is currently paid for Bricklayers?

Total businesses: 37


a)    Under £10 p/h                                     3%

b)    £10-15 p/h                                           32%

c)    £15-20 p/h                                           46%

d)    £20-25 p/h                                           19%

e)    More than £25 p/h                               0%


What is the average hourly pay rate that is currently paid for Bricklayers in London?

Total businesses: 14


a)  Under £10 p/h                                     0%

b)  £10-15 p/h                                           0%

c)  £15-20 p/h                                           64%

d)  £20-25 p/h                                           36%

e)  More than £25 p/h                               0%


If Britain leaves the EU, freedom of movement is likely to be impacted. How do you think this would affect your ability to find suitable candidates to fill vacancies in construction?

Total businesses: 44


a)    It would become more difficult to find suitable candidates  59%

b)    Britain leaving the EU would not impact my ability to find suitable candidates 29%

c)    It would become easier to find suitable candidates  5%

d)    None of the above  7%


What is currently the biggest risk to your business?

Total businesses: 36


a)    Candidate shortages/availability of key skills     45%

b)    Late payments from clients                              23% 

c)    Over-regulation                                                8%

d)    Geopolitical/economic uncertainty                     8%

e)    Increasing tax burdens                                     8%

f)     Other factors                                                   8%


What is currently the second biggest risk to your business?

Total businesses: 36



a)    Candidate shortages/availability of key skills          24%

b)    Late payments from clients                                   13%

c)    Over-regulation                                                    16%

d)    Geopolitical/economic uncertainty                         18%

e)    Increasing tax burdens                                         24%

f)     Other factors                                                        5%


2.    Bricklayers are earning up to £1,000 a week: £25 per hour X 8 hour days X 5 days = £1,000


3.      ONS UK Labour Market data released 18 May 2016. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/may2016#main-points-for-january-to-march-2016


ONS data shows that between December 2014 and December 2015 the construction sector created 94,000 additional jobs. This is 25.4 per cent of all job creation in the same time-frame.

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