Wages for “unskilled” labourers and plant operators are growing faster than for other construction roles, according to the latest data from recruitment company Hays and the Building Cost Information Service.
Labourers and plant operators are usually among the lowest paid in the construction sector, but the data found these roles’ wages were up by 8 per cent apiece. The increase partly reflects April’s 9.7 per cent rise in the National Living Wage.
Overall, in the period from April to the end of June, construction site wages were up by an average of 4.7 per cent compared with the same period the year before, and 4.2 per cent compared with the previous three months, according to the Hays/BCIS Site Wage Cost Indices.
Job placements were down in the period, which the companies said was reflective of labour shortages in many parts of the industry.
BCIS solutions architect Paul Burrows said: “The sharpest fall was among skilled craftsmen, suggesting that availability of workers, rather than availability of work, is an issue.
“Reported skills shortages persist in the industry and wage growth is strong against a background of falling new orders.”
ONS data for the entire construction industry shows wage growth of 5.8 per cent from April to June 2023, compared with 6.5 per cent from January to March 2023.
Inflation stood at 7.9 per cent in the year to June 2023, and 8.9 per cent in the year to March 2023, meaning salary growth has not kept pace with the increased cost of living.
By the end of June this year, the construction workforce has contracted by 274,000 since the first quarter of 2019.
In June, the Construction Leadership Council called for 13 extra trade roles – including general labourers – to be added to the government’s Shortage Occupation List, enabling them to be recruited from abroad.
“The occupations […] are essential to the delivery of national priority projects, providing the growth stimulus for other industries by building the infrastructure that they rely on and delivering significant public value,” it said.
Other roles highlighted included plasterers, dry liners and ceiling fixers.
The Home Office added five other categories to the list in March: bricklayers and masons; carpenters and joiners; roofers, roof tilers and slaters; plasterers and dry liners; and a building trades category, which includes roles like fencers and steeplejacks.