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New research examines the North-South divide in construction projects and jobs as output in infrastructure and housebuilding rebounds from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

2020 was a year like no other: the whole country spent a considerable amount of time at home and entire industries came to a halt, as we worked together to stem the spread of Covid-19. The dual impact of Covid-19 and Brexit understandably caused uncertainty in the construction market, as it has across the world.

Project pipeline

Despite this the construction sector has demonstrated its resilience, establishing itself as one of the bright spots of the economy. The latest ONS Construction Output statistics show that infrastructure and private housing delivery have rebounded, with both being back at pre-pandemic levels of output seen in February 2020.

Our latest regional recruitment analysis report reinforces this, showing the significant amount of infrastructure and housing projects in the pipeline, close to 60,000 of them with guideline commencement dates of 2021. These are projects at either the scoping stage, pre-planning, planning or start on-site, but at each stage these construction projects require skilled professionals.

The government has been resolute that the construction industry remains open for business. The industry contributes significantly to the local and national economy throughout the lifecycle of project delivery and after completion. For example, housebuilding has a trickledown effect in the local economy, creating jobs for solicitors, conveyancers, estate agents and retail. Data shows that for every transaction, the economy benefits by around £9,559 on average and taken together transactions, directly and indirectly, support 11,500 jobs.

It is a similar story when you consider infrastructure projects. Naturally, they generate jobs during construction but they create jobs in the local community once complete and provide vital connections between cities, towns and villages, connecting communities to better job opportunities and people to businesses. Construction is also an industry where most of the onsite work is completed outside, where the spread of Covid-19 is reduced when social distancing measures are also adhered to.

Our analysis of where these infrastructure and housing projects tell a different story to the government’s current “levelling-up” agenda. With more projects currently proposed in the South of England than the North. There are over 5,500 more infrastructure projects, with guideline commencement dates of 2021, in the South East than the North East, where just 1,530 projects are planned.

Job opportunities

The significant pipeline of projects across England presents opportunities for workers, it is one of the industries where vacancies have increased on the quarter, up by 43% to 26,000.

Our analysis of current live vacancies shows there are thousands of roles available in the sector on a permanent, contract and temporary basis. The top 10 roles are dominated by on-site positions – 31% of vacancies are for labourers. Engineers are also in demand, with 19% of vacancies in this field and opportunities available for mechanical, electrical and site engineers across the country.

Regional salaries and cost of living

Our research also investigated where construction professionals can secure better lifestyles through higher take-home pay once expenses have been taken into account. We did this by running an analysis on average salaries across a range of on-site and office-based roles, household expenditure and monthly mortgage or rental payments. This enabled us to create an affordability index and highlight which regions in England are providing construction professionals with a better balance between income and expenditure.

Our analysis found that construction professionals in the North East would be significantly better off than their counterparts in London and the South East, with up to 50% of their salary remaining after household expenses compared to 10% in London and 21% in the South East.

When we spoke to 2,000 construction professionals, they indicated that salary continues to be the biggest driver behind job decision-making with a third (32%) indicating this is their top priority. We found that 52% of people are open to relocating to a different region of the UK for the right job, rising to 76% if companies would contribute to relocation costs.

Covid-19 has also shifted the lifestyle priorities of many, encouraging people to reassess living situations and reconsider whether they want to live in cities long-term, the importance of adequate space at home and access to a garden. In 2020, over 70,000 Londoners relocated, purchasing homes outside of the capital.

There is a clear opportunity for hiring managers here, with the pull of equivalent salaries matched with lower regional living costs, companies can tap into the talent pool of workers across the UK, rather than restricting themselves to their local area.

There are several thousand planned construction projects, which are vital to the UK’s competitiveness on the world stage. The government is prioritising the delivery of construction projects, reducing bureaucracy around planning and providing support to consumers in the housing market. The construction sector is open for business, and skilled professionals are in demand, ensuring candidates have the right skills and training in what will be a competitive jobs market is vital.

To download Randstad’s 2021 analysis of regional recruitment in construction, visit:




Owen Goodhead

Chief operating officer


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