The FMB’s State of Trade Survey for the third quarter of 2019, found the number of small to medium-sized (SME) construction companies reporting a growing workforce had fallen, from 19 per cent to 15 per cent, while almost a quarter (23 per cent) reported they had reduced their headcount, up from 21 per cent. Employment levels for SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) construction companies remained in negative territory for the second quarter in a row, following a five-year period of positive growth. Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Builders are tired of the continued political uncertainty blighting the UK economy. Stagnating staffing levels is a concerning sign, and if this trend continues, we could see the capacity of the industry shrink at a time when builders are needed more than ever. “Skilled workers are scarce in the construction industry, and it is critical we keep people employed in the sector. The fact that SME firms are having to lay people off and are holding off taking new people on is worrying.”Mr Berry continued: “Small building companies are also having to contend with eye-watering material prices, and these are set to continue to rise. This coupled with continued wage inflation, driven by skill shortages, is leaving many firms to have unsustainable profit margins. “This will ultimately mean less money for SMEs to invest and grow for the future, and ultimately could see some firms having to close. “The Government needs to carefully consider the impact of new regulations that will impose extra costs and cash flow restrictions on the sector such as Reverse Charge VAT.