Vacancies and Working Hours plummet

Construction had the second largest reduction in hours worked of any UK industry during the first three months of 2020, Office of National Statistics (ONS) data has revealed.

The statistics showed the average number of actual hours worked in the construction from January to March was 5.8 per cent less than in the same period in 2019. The only industry with a higher decline was accommodation and food services.

Limited opportunities for working from home partially explained the decline, according to the ONS. It cited a previous study, from 2019, which found only a quarter (25.6 per cent) of the construction industry had ever worked from home. The ability of a construction employee to complete tasks remotely was also affected by the need to be in a specific environment with certain tools or machinery, the statistics body added.

It also highlighted the decline in construction output of 2.6 per cent over the same period. A forecast by the Construction Products Association last week warned output could drop by a further 25 per cent this year due to the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Vacancies in the sector were also down according to two different metrics. Year-on-year construction vacancies were down by a quarter (24.9 per cent) based on the ONS’s labour force survey data for the period February to April 2020.

Even more stark was the statistical body’s experimental data which uses weekly labour force survey data and monthly vacancies estimates. This found an 86.2 per cent decrease in the number of jobs advertised in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. Although the ONS said its experimental data should be interpreted with caution because they are highly variable and methodologically less robust compared with three-month estimates.

The findings were published as part of the ONS’s quarterly analysis of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on hours worked.

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