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NI construction decline eases and workload expectations improve

Workloads in Northern Ireland construction fell at a reduced rate at the end of last year compared to the previous two quarters, despite on-going concerns about COVID and a growing weakness in commercial development, according to the RICS and Tughans Construction and Infrastructure Monitor, Q4 2020.

As the high street undergoes transformational change, respondents highlight concerns around the structural challenges for both retail and offices that is impacting on development.

The workload balance for Northern Ireland stood at -18 in Q4 compared to -27 in Q3 and -60 in Q2.

At a sector level, there were rises in workload balances for both public and private house building and a modest increase in infrastructure workloads. However private commercial and private industrial workloads were reported to have experienced steep falls.

Looking ahead, a net balance of +24% of Northern Ireland respondents expect workloads to be higher in a year’s time, with the 12-month outlook for employment flat. The balance of NI respondents expects profit margins to continue to be squeezed.

RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman, Jim Sammon, said: “Again in Q4, like in the previous quarter, we see an easing in the rate of decline in construction workloads. However it was still another challenging one for the sector. Respondents are highlighting a range of challenges and concerns around material availability and cost increases. General uncertainty in the economy linked to Covid and post Brexit is also as a potential deterrent to workload growth.”

Michael McCord, Senior Partner at Tughans, said: “Despite the ongoing uncertainty, surveyors appear more optimistic about the year ahead, expecting workloads to rise during the course of 2021. Indeed, the construction industry no doubt has an extremely important role to play in helping drive a sustainable economic recovery in Northern Ireland and investing in the right areas can help play a central role in creating employment, driving spending in the economy, and ultimately improving Northern Ireland’s competitiveness for the long-term.”