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What can we expect to see in the construction industry in 2018?

2017 was a challenging year for the construction industry, with Brexit developments and ongoing skills shortage and some high profile business failures casting a shadow over the UK sector. However, the tail end of the year saw something of a return to form for the industry, with a rise in residential building projects helping to offset poor performance in other areas. There was a sense of cautious optimism from many within the industry as the year ended – but what does 2018 have in store for construction within the UK?

Residential builds boost sector

The 2017 push toward more residential building is set to continue this year and should help to keep the construction market moving forward. While construction growth overall is expected to rise by just 0.7% in 2018, figures for new home construction in the UK have hit a ten-year high as Theresa May calls for 300,000 new homes built per year to tackle housing shortages. Help to Buy equity loans are propping up housebuilding numbers to some extent, though a lack of consumer confidence and slowing UK economic growth means forecasts for the coming years remain cautious.

Builders have registered plans to start 160,606 new homes in 2018, according to the National House Building Council, which is the highest number since the start of the 2007 financial crisis. Even London, with its affordability challenge, saw an increase in housing starts in 2017 – the first since 2014. Meanwhile, Wales has seen a nearly 20% rise in housing starts, suggesting there is plenty of opportunity for construction professionals in this part of the world.

 

Infrastructure boom

As private housebuilding figures rise, so too does infrastructure activity. While commercial and industrial sectors remain slow in terms of growth, major rail and water and sewerage projects will see plenty of construction job opportunities. Output in infrastructure is expected to rise by 1.1% this year, according to the Construction Products Association, with projects like the Thames Tideway, Hinkley Point C and the Manchester Airport Project generating significant activity and driving civil engineering. Roads construction is tipped to pick up this year after a flat 2017, though cuts to local authority spending on roads may restrict this growth.

Risk factors

While pockets of the construction sector look optimistic for the coming year, industry professionals must remain mindful of the depreciation of the Sterling, which has led to increases in the cost of imported materials and fuel. This will likely impact larger infrastructure and commercial projects, though the full impact of exchange rate depreciations remains to be seen.

Brexit will play a major part in how the industry shapes up in coming years, with Article 50 triggered in 2017. Negotiations over trade terms and labour movements will continue over the coming year, with a five-year transition agreement to follow.

Opportunities

While the weakened Sterling is having a negative impact on some areas of construction, it has had a positive influence on UK tourism and looks set to provide a welcome boost to investment in hotel and leisure construction projects. In fact, Glenigan predicts this sector will see a growth rate of 20% in 2018. With more visitors to the UK spending more money, the outlook is encouraging for investors looking to develop and expand hotels, restaurants and leisure facilities. In addition to the ongoing residential and infrastructure growth, we can expect to see upward movement in education and secondary school projects, with pupil numbers rising and increased investment into universities.

For jobseekers, 2018 will continue to present opportunities in key construction sectors, namely industrial, hotel and leisure, education and residential building. While changing market conditions will need to be monitored by organisations, there remains a strong appetite for skilled, trained construction workers to contribute to the industry.

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