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How has COVID 19 affected Construction and Property Job Prospects in Scotland? Part II, follow-up survey

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In May this year, we commissioned a survey by thePotentMix, an independent third party, on behalf of Peace Recruitment. This survey ran between 12th and 30th May and the results were very interesting and useful to us and our clients and candidates. 

In the interim, construction, which had been virtually on hold up to the time of the last survey, has resumed and while it would be foolish to deny the huge impact of the coronavirus crisis on our sector, it was also true that there was some optimism for the third and fourth quarters of 2020.  With this in mind, we revisited the survey in September, again using the services of thePotentMix to contact c. 590 of the companies on the Peace client database, with further responses coming in via posts on the Peace social media platforms. There were the same questions (adjusted for changes of date), plus two new ones, on redundancies made so far and on the percentage of staff expected to work from home. 

Executive Summary

  • In May, the vast majority (77%) ranked the impact of the crisis above the median point in the scale they were given, with over a quarter scoring their firm at 10 - the worst possible impact.  Our September survey shows a slight reduction (69%), albeit still a considerable majority, in the numbers ranking the impact of the crisis above the median point. Crucially, the number scoring their firm at 10 has decreased substantially, to only 7%. 
  • In May, the vast majority (85%) expect their profit to decline by over 20% this year.  In September, this figure had substantially reduced, to only 45%.
  • A new question asked how many firms had made redundancies up to September.  28% said they had: 72% said they had not.
  • In May, a small majority(56%) said they did not expect to make redundancies. By September, this had declined to 38%.
  • In May, only 5% said the expected a return to normal hiring, with 59% pessimistic (below the median) about hiring in the rest of the year.  By September, these figures had changed to 10% expecting a return to ‘normal’ and 44% pessimistic about the rest of the year.
  • A new question asked how many staff firms expected to have working from home at the end of 2020. Only 10% said none, with a further 10% saying they’d have between 75% and 100% of staff working from home. 24% expected between 1% and 20% would work from home, with 55% expecting between 21% and 75% to be working from home.  Clearly, this applies to white collar staff, but it does reflect the huge change in working practices engendered by the pandemic.

           The full details of the survey are shown below (five minute read).

                                                                                     

                                                                                                          * * * * * * * * *

 

Q 1. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no impact and 10 is a huge impact, how has the global pandemic affected your business?  

In May, only 11% of respondents said the crisis had had a moderate (i.e. less than 5 on our scale) impact; 12% said it has a middling-level impact (i.e. 5 precisely on our scale) and 77% said it was bad-to-terrible.  Significantly, over a quarter (26%) scored this question at 10 – a huge impact.  In September, these figures have changed, with 14% saying the effect was moderate, 17% that it was middling, 69% that it is bad-to-terrible, but only 7% scored the question at 10.   Overall, this is a positive result and, we hope, a harbinger of increased busines confidence as we move into the final quarter of the year, even allowing for the short-term enforced lockdown now imposed.

 

Q 2. Do you expect your business profits to drop by more than 20% in 2020?  

Some 85% of our respondents in May expected their profits to drop by more than 20% this year.  By September, this had decreased to 44%.  This, we believe, reflects increased confidence engendered by a period of moderate work for most and a semblance of a return to normal summer construction activity, plus the expectation that government will seek to continue to develop new infrastructure projects and that the (perhaps unexpected) boom in the housing market will continue.  

Q 3. Have you already made redundancies as a result of the crisis?

This was a new question, designed to see how many firms had actually made people redundant, as opposed to the 44% who said in May that they expected to make redundancies.  We suspect that many firms have held off on actually making redundancies while they have the support of the government’s furlough scheme. Nonetheless, again we are seeing increased confidence, which is the essential lubricant for all successful businesses to motor ahead.

Q 4. Irrespective of whether you have already made redundancies or not, do you now expect to make any (more) redundances as a result of the crisis?

In May, we wrote that the response to the equivalent question was that “this is perhaps the major chink of light in this survey.”  At that time, a small majority, 56%, said they do not expect to make redundancies. Now, this majority has increased, to 62%.  While that still leaves well over one third of firms expecting to make (more) redundancies – a number that we suspect may increase if there is a serious second wave of the virus – overall we are pleased to see that it looks that fewer people may be made redundant than was thought back in May.

 

Q 5. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no chance of hiring new staff and 10 is a return to normal hiring, what is the likelihood of you hiring staff in 2020?  

In May, there was a large majority for the gloomy scenario of very few jobs being available as we come out of the crisis.  At that time, nearly a quarter (24%) expect to hire no-one, with some 59% below the median of 5, with 15% giving their response as 5 (i.e. 50:50) and only 26% showing confidence, of which only 5% said the expected a return to normal hiring. 

In September, things have changed a bit.  Now, 21% expect to hire no-one and only 44% are pessimistic (i.e. below the median of 5) while the percentage who expect a return to normal has doubled from 5% to 10%.  Also adding support to this slightly more optimistic picture of the job market, the percentage giving their response as 5 has increased from 15% to 21%.  We are by no means out of the woods though… 

 

Q 6. What percentage of your employees will be working from home at the end of 2020?  

This is a new question, which seeks to find out the extent to which (white collar) staff are likely to be working from home in the years ahead.  In perhaps the biggest indication that the world of work has totally changed, only 10% of respondents said none of their staff would be working from home, with 10% of firms saying they’d have between 75% and 100% of staff working from home (including 3% who said all staff would be working from home). A further 24% expected between 1% and 20% would work from home, with 55% expecting between 21% and 75% to be working from home.  Clearly, this finding applies to professional staff, but it does reflect the huge change in working practices engendered by the pandemic.


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