But experts at the civil engineering trade body CECA are warning that workloads are set to fall this year as public spending cuts bite.
The improved figures were driven mainly by more private work in the water and electricity sectors while public infrastructure spending remained depressed.
The majority of contractors are still reporting that they have less work now than they did at the same point in 2009.
But the balance between those reporting falls in work and those reporting rises has swung back towards positive territory.
The results of the survey, which was carried out in June and July, show that:
51% of firms reported lower workload
27% reported higher workload
The balance between the two figures was -24%, a significant improvement on the -59% balance reported in April.
This in turn was an improvement on the -77% balance reported in January 2010 and the -64% in October 2009.
This improvement was largely driven by those sub-sectors that are dominated by private sector clients.
Workload in the water sector improved from a balance of -63% in April to -25% in July, with similar gains in electricity (-53 to -12%) and preliminary works (-48% to -18%) while communications built on its positive workload balance in April, rising from + 2%to + 12% in July.
CECA members reported that public sector workloads continued to drop, with strategic roads work down to -51% from -21% in April. Similarly, local road works has dropped slightly to -54% from -50%.
Looking forward, members expect declining workloads in the year to come with 45% of companies anticipating lower workload and just 14% of firms predict increased work
Alasdair Reisner, CECA Head of Industry Affairs, said: “At a time when the industry is still struggling to bounce back from the recession, any improvement in contractors’ workloads is welcome.
“However, we need to treat this apparent upswing with caution. The results remain in negative territory with only those sub-sectors of the industry that rely on private sector clients showing any improvement.
“Even here there is no guarantee that this recovery will be sustained. Civil engineering contractors will face a difficult time over the next few years, particularly as the impact of public sector spending cuts starts to bite.”