Last year we were getting used to the strange idea that the UK had turned the comer and was finally on the road to economic recovery.
We’re a cautious lot in the construction industry, but with workloads undeniably growing, we had to admit that life was looking a lot rosier than it had done for the previous five years.
We’re a lot busier now, and we’re employing more people. But are we actually any better off than we were one – or even two – years ago?
For months the Labour Party has been complaining that the effects of the recovery have yet to be felt by most people. It even talked about a “cost of living crisis”. Well they would say that, wouldn’t they? They’re the opposition.
But in June, veteran Tory minister Ken Clarke admitted that most people felt no better off now than when the recovery first took hold at the back end of 2012.
Looking at the Company Watch analysis of the Top 100 construction businesses in this month’s issue it’s hard to avoid coming to the same conclusion.
Workloads are marginally up; profits overall are marginally up. But those margins are wafer-thin, and costs continue to rise. Output seems to have levelled off and the financial health of the 100 largest firms doesn’t seem to have improved at all.
Of course, our figures are based on company financial statements relating to the period 2012/13 when the recovery was still faltering. Are things likely to be much better now? Well - Balfour Beatty and Royal BAM Group both issued profit warnings in June. Hardly a good sign, is it?