The latest national jobs figures may well provide some comfort for those in construction as they show that the level of employment held up last year. The number of jobs stood at 2,052,000 on the workforce jobs by industry count. And employment on the Labour Force Survey count stood at 2,165,000.
After a scary drop at the start of the recession, which ripped out hundreds of thousands of jobs, the broad picture is of a flat jobs market in construction for the best part of two years.
The employment figures mask the disparity in fortunes across and between regions
But the figures mask the disparity in fortunes across and between regions. Looking at how far jobs have fallen from their peak levels in each region we see that London and the South-east have come off not too badly. Job numbers are down about 4% in London and 10% in the South-east from peak.
In the North of England, meanwhile, the picture is grim. There’s been a 30% cull of jobs in the North-east, and 25% of jobs have been lost in the North-west and Yorkshire and Humberside. Northern Ireland is experiencing similar pain.
The ONS figures for construction jobs are also historic and mask the changes afoot.
Recruitment firm Manpower last week released what was generally a pretty upbeat report on job prospects for the coming three months for the UK as a whole.
However, it showed in the sector breakdown that construction was taking a turn for the worse. It stood out as the sector with the worst prospects and those prospects had worsened over the latest quarter. The Markit/CIPS construction survey, despite its pretty optimistic view of the industry as a whole, also points to worsening jobs prospects.
So while we can be thankful that jobs held up last year, the industry needs to do much more if it is to protect itself from further erosion in the skills base.