Bright sparks: Construction is down but installation work keeps electricians busy

feature-sparky-200The electrical services industry is the largest of the building and construction contracting trades, accounting for about one-seventh of the gross product, revenue and employment in the construction trade services sector.

Industry activities span across all building, infrastructure and industrial markets. Services provided include the installation of new electrical, electronic, communications and industrial equipment; the installation of wiring and cabling; and the repair and maintenance of existing electrical equipment and fixtures.

The industry is expected to generate revenue totalling $12 billion in 2012-13, an increase by 2.1% on the previous year, including value added of $6.0 billion or about 0.5% of Australia’s GDP. Revenue is expected to grow by an annualised 1.5% over the five years through 2012-13, exceeding the pace of annualised GDP growth of 2.4%.

The industry’s performance has been underpinned by demand for installation work in the engineering infrastructure market (work on mining, transport, power and communications projects), which has offset the subdued demand for wiring and equipment installation in the building market (i.e. new homes and office developments). The industry’s medium to long-term performance has been boosted by work resulting from the emergence of new technologies, particularly broadband communications cabling.

Electrical contractors have derived some stimulus from the injection of public sector funding of school refurbishments and the reconstruction following the 2011 floods in Queensland and Victoria.

Industry employment currently totals about 70,000 people in 25,500 establishments. Half the firms are non-employer establishments, principally acting as independent contractors or subcontractors. The industry comprises many small-scale operators employing four to five people per establishment, including working proprietors and partners. The four largest enterprises together generate less than 20% of annual industry revenue. The industry’s major players include Norfolk Group, Downer EDI, UGL Limited, Transfield Services and Stowe Australia.

Industry at a Glance

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The industry is forecast to record annualised growth of 3.0% over the next five years to reach $13.9 billion in 2017-18, roughly in line with the pace of GDP growth (2.9%). Growth is expected to be supported by the cyclical resurgence in the downstream building markets and the continued spread of electrical and electronic technology.

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