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Civils workload rises but small firms miss out

Civil engineering workload continues to rise but small firms are experiencing no benefit, according to the latest survey of workload trends by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association.
Overall results of CECA's July 2006 survey are among the best ever. With all replies weighted by size of firm, the proportion reporting an increase over the past year in civil engineering workload is up to just over half.The proportion of firms indicating increased employment is also just over half. Those saying order books are fuller than a year ago is not quite half.Two particularly encouraging features are indications of a recovery in work on railway infrastructure, and amarked improvement of results for Scotland despite continuing slackness of water and sewerage works activity, said CECA.But When replies are analysed by size of firm a different picture emerges, CECA warned. It is again the largest contractors that reportthe strongest trends, stronger than in April, whilst results for medium-sized firms are also better than in CECA's last survey.But results for small contractors, which have been weakest throughout the past year, are slightly poorer thanlast time. On balance these firms report no increase in workload, no change in their workforce, and a further slight weakening of their order book situation. But they do still retain a reasonably strong expectation of better trends in the year ahead.Meanwhile contractors of all sizes continue to report difficult labour supply conditions, especially for engineers. Supply is described as 'unsatisfactory' by a little over half of all respondents.Cost trends remain a matter of concern across the industry, with almost four out of 10 saying costs are rising faster now than they were a year ago.Commenting on the results CECA Chairman Peter Andrews said: 'At first sight the results of our July 2006 survey may seem encouraging, but CECA cannot be satisfied when so many of the smaller firms that make up the larger part of its membership are not sharing in the upward trend.'The country is still not using the resources of its civil engineering industry to best advantage. There is still under-used capacity that could be put to more productive use.'

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