The specialist sector continues to benefit from improving economic conditions according to the latest NSCC State of Trade Survey.

The number of Specialist Contractors reporting an increase in orders in the second quarter of 2014 rose to 57%, up from 27% just over a year ago, and the balance of orders, the difference between respondents reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease, reached its highest level since 2000.

As a result, 59% of Specialist Contractors are anticipating an increase in workload over the next quarter and a record high of 72% expect to see an increase over the next year. 84% of respondents reported they are now working at over 75% capacity with 43% over 90% capacity. This is leading to difficulties for some Specialist Contractors with 64% experiencing increased supplier prices and 19% reporting they are unable to bid for work due to skills shortages, well above the five-year average of 6%.

There was a slight improvement in payment practices this quarter with 16% of Specialist Contractors getting paid in an average of less than 30 days, the highest result ever recorded by the survey. In another first for the survey, the number of respondents waiting more than 60 days for payment at 14% was lower than the number receiving payment within 30 days. Fair payment is vital to the continued long term recovery of the sector and NSCC played a major role in the development of the new Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter, which sets out a commitment to 30-day payment terms and no retention by 2025.

NSCC Chief Executive Suzannah Nichol MBE said:

“It’s encouraging to see the early effects of the Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter with the result that more Specialist Contractors are now being paid within 30 days. Continuing this trend along with investing in the skills of our workforce to meet the current demand is essential if we are to sustain the growth we all want.”

NSCC contributes its findings to the State of Trade Survey published by the Construction Products Association, enabling the experiences of the specialist sector to be compared with the wider industry.