The cost of COVID: ‘Historic’ fall in workloads but industry ready to bounce back

Dominic Browne

As the UK falls into recession with GDP tumbling 20.4% in April-June, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has released a report counting the impact of COVID-19 in the second quarter (Q2) of the financial year.

While trading and employment balances fell across the infrastructure sector there was optimism in the market, perhaps stoked by the expectation of construction playing a major role in the recovery.


Workloads declined in Q2, according to 43% of British firms, to hit the lowest balance in nearly 11 years.

However around, 15% of firms in Great Britain on balance reported that workloads are expected to increase in the next 12 months.

In England, this figure was 24% and in Wales, 67% of firms, on balance, expected workloads to increase, the highest balance since 2018 Q2. However, in Scotland, 26% of firms, on balance, expected workloads to fall over the next 12 months.

Negative balances for Q2 were registered in harbours and waterways (-37%), local roads (-14%), railways (-12%) and water and sewerage (-12%). Motorways and trunk roads was the sole sector reporting an increase in order books in the second quarter according to 9% of firms, on balance.

The report found eight of the 10 sectors saw workloads decline, with airports (-81%) and harbours and waterways (-45%) both reporting survey-record low balances.

Order books fell for 32% of firms on balance, but 15% expect increased workloads during the next 12 months and expectations remain 'positive' on employment despite balances for all types of worker hitting another decade low.

Around 14% of British firms noted issues with the supply of materials/products, the highest proportion in six years.

Overall, civil engineering firms reported continued difficulties with the supply of suitable workers in Q2.

The most commonly reported dissatisfaction with supply in Q2 was for skilled operatives in England (28%), Scotland (22%) and Wales (13%). 18% of firms in England were also dissatisfied with the supply of staff, whilst 18% of firms in Scotland cited other operatives as another concern.

In Wales, the availability of materials/products was noted as another concern, according to 13% of firms.

Highways jobs

Grounds Maintenance Operative

£19,312 - £20,493 per annum
This position is Seasonal/Fixed Term from 22 March to 29 October 2021. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Head of Highways

£53,984 - £63,449
You will have a proven track record of success in delivering effective highway services and substantial capital programmes as... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Vehicle Technician x2

£24,982 - £29,577 per annum
These positions are fixed term contracts for 12 months with the prospect of a permanent role once the Class C Driving Licence has been obtained.  Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Commercial Vehicle Technician

£30,000 per annum
We are seeking a fully trained HGV technician to work as part of the team who maintain the Council's fleet to the highest standards.  Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Clerk of Works

£32,234 - £35,745
We are looking for someone who... Warrington, Cheshire
Recruiter: Warrington Borough Council

Executive Director of Place, Economy & Environment – West Northamptonshire Council

Up to £140k
Be part of shaping the future Northamptonshire
Recruiter: North Northamptonshire & West Northamptonshire

Director Public Protection and Licensing

circa £123k
At Westminster, we are passionate about the place and the people who live, work and visit here. City of Westminster, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Westminster City Council

Senior Data Centre Engineer

The successful candidate will have a BSc in relevant discipline, or equivalent industry experience. Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Lead Network Engineer

We are going through exciting new changes, which require the need for Lead Network engineers who can redesign, architect, document and... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Community Protection Regulatory Officer

£26,112 per annum, rising to £28,785
The successful applicant will provide support to the team’s Environmental Health Officers while also benefitting from their experience and guidance. Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Grounds Maintenance Supervisor

£26,112 per annum, rising to £28,785
The successful candidate will show enthusiasm and a commitment to effectively deliver excellent service to... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Drainage Engineer & Senior Drainage Engineer

£32,234 - £35,745 (Engineer), £35,745 - £39,880 (Senior Engineer)
Lincolnshire County Council has exciting opportunities for a Drainage Engineer (x1) and Senior Drainage Engineer Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Principal S106 & CIL Officer (Infrastructure Planning)

£43,860 - £46,839 p.a. inc.
To be successful in this role, you will bring strong S106 & CIL collection experience, be able to... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Head of Built Environment

£67,036 - £76,613 per annum
The post holder will deliver the effective strategic improvement, co-ordination and management of the planned... Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Highways Maintenance Engineer

£30,492 - £32,851
We are looking to recruit a suitably qualified and experienced Highway Maintenance Engineer to join our Key Projects Team at... Worcestershire
Recruiter: Worcestershire County Council

Street Cleaning Operatives / Drivers

£21,795 - £22,995 Per Annum
We are looking for hard working, motivated, reliable people to join our team. Barnet (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Barnet London Borough Council

Senior Infrastructure Design Engineer

£35,745 - £38,890 per annum
Do you want to work in an innovative, positive team that shapes and develops the places we live and work in? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Sustainable Travel Delivery Specialist

£32,234 - £34,728 per annum
Are you passionate about Active Travel and Sustainable Transport? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Asset Inspector

£20,092 - £21,748 per annum
Do you enjoy an active life and have an interest in Heritage, Environment and Engineering assets? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Project Engineer

£27,741 - £29,577 per annum
Do you have a passion for civil engineering and construction? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Also inside:

Big Interview: IHE President Stephen Webb

ADEPT Traffic Managers' Conference

Legal: JV or not JV?

View the latest issue

Latest Video