The building industry in the West Midlands is facing a period of uncertainty, according to the latest surveys from two top sector organisations.
But there are some signs that business could improve later in the year.
In figures released by the Federation of Master Builders, 53 per cent of builders in the region said workload in the period April to June was lower than in the first quarter of the year. This is significantly worse than the national average, which saw 35 per cent of UK builders reporting a drop in work.
A survey by the Builders Merchants Federation, covering sales at builders' merchants during April to June, found business in the West Midlands down by 0.8 per cent on the same period last year, against a national decline of 1.1 per cent. However, when compared to the first three months of 2006, sales showed a 5.9 per cent increase.
Commenting on the figures, BMF secretary Peter Matthews said: "We would normally expect a strong upturn during the spring, but although the quarter on quarter figures are positive, sales remain lower than last year.
"The most likely reason is the continuing low levels of activity both in new housing and the refurbishment and improvement of existing housing stock. Both of these are greatly affected by consumer confidence being adversely hit by consumer debt and utility bills at record levels, leading to a slump in discretionary income."
The FMB report shows an overall downturn in all building work in the second quarter except new build private housing, a similar pattern to the previous quarter.
The weakest results were for repair, maintenance and improvement of social housing and non-residential buildings for public sector clients. In both sectors members experiencing lower workloads outnumbered those with higher workloads by more than three to one.
Looking forward to the next quarter, West Midlands builders paint a gloomy picture with 43 per cent expecting workloads to decrease again.
Nationally, however there is an expectation that total workload will rise in the third quarter of the year with both private and social housing providing the impetus, but other types of work are likely to continue to decline.