Belfast Telegraph

Downturn slows but builders still fear job losses

By Clare Weir

A third of all small to medium-sized building firms in Northern Ireland fear they will have to cut staff this year as the construction industry continues to wither.

However, the Federation of Master Builders' latest State of Trade showed some signs of encouragement for Northern Irish firms, where the deterioration in workloads actually slowed in the last three months of 2012, showing a net fall of 26 points as compared to -51 in the first quarter of last year.

The survey shows that builders' workloads decreased last year, and are expected to keep falling at least for the first half of 2013.

However, the rate at which workloads and employment in the housing sector fell did slow in the fourth quarter of last year, with many specialist trades reporting the first rise in employment since early 2011.

Across the board all 12 regions and devolved nations in the UK experienced negative indicators, with just three - Wales, Northern Ireland and London - seeing their rate of decline slowing down.

Maire Nawaz, director for the Federation of Master Builders in NI, said the construction industry here is on a knife-edge.

"The Northern Ireland Executive must act now to support building firms and prevent workers from losing their jobs over the next 12 months," she said

"The NI Executive's draft proposal for a new housing strategy is good, but it needs to look at ways it can boost the building industry, not least the urgent need to build more new homes by freeing up land, easing planning red tape and by pushing investment."