The latest B&ES State of Trade Survey suggests that building services firms are becoming more confident about the future.
More B&ES member firms have seen an increase in orders and enquiries in the past six months, which has, in turn, generated optimism about future business prospects.
Around 25 per cent of all respondents to the survey said they were feeling more confident about the future and that proportion rose to two-thirds in the case of the largest B&ES member firms.
The improvement is nationwide with only the East Midlands and Eastern Counties continuing to see a decline in companies’ six-monthly turnover.
Turnover and direct employment levels have stabilised in marked contrast to the findings of the previous two B&ES surveys from July 2012 and January 2013.
Firms now say they expect workforce numbers to increase in the short term, along with apprentice recruitment and investment in education and training.
Overall, a fifth of respondents had seen an increase in their order books in the past six months, with prospects for the residential sector – previously identified as suffering most severely from the economic downturn – showing particular improvement.
The speed with which tender prices have been falling – something that has dogged the industry throughout the recession – has slowed, but the increased workload could trigger skills shortages in certain disciplines, B&ES warned.
Rising material and labour costs also sound a cautionary note, and contractors are still frustrated by a further increase in the amount of pre-qualification questionnaires.
Many reported that the introduction of the standard pre-qualification specification PAS91 has done little to simplify the tender process.