But the Bolton-headquartered group said maintaining a relatively high pre-construction staff overhead has now paid off with a rapid rebound in orders to the highest level recorded for many years.
CEO Jonathan Seddon said: “The negative effects of the near industry-wide lockdown masks some positive underlying trading, a continuation of the strategy of workload diversification and a de-risking of the portfolio.
“This has specifically targeted an increased focus on property services and maintenance work together with further growth of an already established social housing arm.
“One of the benefits of maintaining a sizeable pre-construction overhead during the Covid lockdown was the opportunity to concentrate on future trading.
“The decision has been rewarded with the strongest forward order book the company has had for many years, providing an excellent opportunity to return full turnover capacity and profitability.”
Overall the construction arm, which had a 547-strong workforce, received nearly £2m from the covid job retention scheme.
Group performance was salvaged by a strong contribution from the housing business Seddon Homes, which helped lift group turnover past £200m from £193m previously, generating a pre-tax profit of £7m, up from £3m.
The homes business saw sales rise 28% to just over 200 homes raising revenue 58% to £54m, helped by an 11% rise in North West house prices and a change in product mix.
During the year the healthcare and commercial property business reported a £2m pre-tax profit.