The latest NSCC State of Trade Survey for the fourth quarter of 2010 showed that only 29% of trade contractors enjoyed an increase in enquiries and 33% an increase in orders.
But almost half of the specialists quizzed are anticipating an increased workload over the next 12 months compared to just 36% last quarter.
Late payment is still a massive problem with just 4% of specialist contractors receiving their money within 30 days.
Despite Government promises to crack-down on late payers, 82% of respondents wait up to 60 days for payment with 14% facing payment periods of 60 days or more.
Three quarters of firms reported increased supplier prices with high inflation impacting on the cost of raw materials, particularly steel.
The increase in the rate of VAT, clients delaying orders and the difficulties in raising finance also affected specialist contractors in the last quarter with 59% predicting lower profit margins over the next quarter despite despite rising tender prices.
NSCC Chief Executive, Suzannah Nichol MBE, said: “It is disappointing to see that only 4% of Specialist Contractors are being paid within 30 days in these straitened times.
“Prompt payment is crucial to delivering best value, and this has clearly been recognised by Government as the biggest construction client, which has made 30-day payment periods mandatory on its projects.”