Signs are emerging that the specialist market could be starting to improve despite conditions remaining tough, according to the latest NSCC State of Trade Survey.
Thirty-nine per cent of specialist contractors reported an increase in enquiries and 36 per cent an increase in orders in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The balance of both enquiries and orders, which is the difference between respondents reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease, has improved significantly to 11 per cent and 2 per cent.
Capacity levels have fallen with just 61 per cent of specialist contractors working at over 75 per cent capacity compared to 72 per cent in the previous quarter, which reflects the lack of work available in the industry.
The majority of specialist contractors are still looking less than three months ahead and market demand, cost of materials and availability of labour and finance are cited as the most important factors affecting their plans.
The medium to long-term outlook appears to be more encouraging with 56 per cent of specialist contractors anticipating an increase in workload and 44 per cent expecting their businesses to expand over the next 12 months.
Government investment will be crucial to kick-starting growth within the industry and the wider economy.