According to the most recent Construction Trade Survey, the construction industry has enjoyed its strongest performance in over six years, the Building Design & Construction website reports.
The report reveals that after six consecutive quarters of increased construction activity, growth in output continued to rise in the final quarter of 2014, and is likely to continue into this year.
This trajectory was led chiefly by the private housing sector, in which output rose for 53% of the firms surveyed; meanwhile 40% of companies reported an increase in work for commercial office and retail buildings.
Nearly half (44%) of companies reported a rise in construction output in the final quarter of 2014. Another key takeaway from the survey is that public non-residential orders - for example, education and health - increased for 16% of contractors in Q4.
"Looking forward, contractors expect continued strength in private housing and commercial this year, boosted by public non-housing as a stream of work on the Priority School Building Programme gets underway," explained Dr Noble Francis, Economics Director at the Construction Products Association.
"Outside of these sectors, however, order books weakened in Q4, suggesting a moderation in growth in 2015. SMEs in particular reported a noticeable slowdown in new enquiries in Q4," he added.
These slowdowns include a drop in housing repair and maintenance, as reported by 11% of firms. In addition to his, the large majority of contractors (70%) found it difficult to recruit qualified bricklayers in the final quarter of 2014 - compared with 41% in Q3 - reflecting a growing skills shortage.
In response to the figures, Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, commented that the "rising costs associated with a shortage of skilled labour and for tenders are eliminating the profit advantage that increased workloads bring."