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UK Business News

46% of UK homeowners have struggled to hire a tradesperson, study reveals the UK cities with the most trade shortages

The current shortage of tradespeople in the UK is not new information, however a recent survey by Markel Direct, the specialist insurer of tradespeople, has revealed the full extent of the issue.


The study found that 46% of UK homeowners have struggled to hire a tradesperson for their projects or repairs, with the top reasons cited being “no availability” by 46% of respondents and “shortage of specific trade in the area” by 34%. The study also looked at which UK locations are experiencing the greatest shortage of tradespeople, by analysing the number of searches for certain trades in cities across the UK and comparing this to listed businesses offering that trade. Out of 46 cities analysed, 19 were revealed to not have enough tradespeople to meet the search demand of the residents.

The data revealed that Norwich was the city with the most trades with shortages compared to searches per 10,000 residents. It was found to have shortages of nine trades including bricklayers, carpenters and electricians.

Three cities – Peterborough, Swansea and York – were all found to have a shortage of eight trades, with each city needing more plumbers, carpenters and carpet fitters. And Plymouth was found to have a shortage of seven of the 13 trades looked at.


When it came to the trade with shortages in the most cities, the data revealed it was the jack of all trades “handyman/person” which are in short supply, with 15 out of 46 cities not having enough businesses to meet the search demand.

Next was plumbers, of which there were a shortage in 12 cities out of 46 analysed. Plumbers were also found to be the most in demand trade nationally, according to searches of “plumber” and “plumber near me”, with 44 out of 46 cities showing the highest monthly search volume for this trade above the others.


In joint third place was bricklayers and carpenters, of which seven cities didn’t have enough businesses in the area to meet the residents’ demand.

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Additionally, the study explored the most common DIY disasters by homeowners that resulted in them hiring a tradesperson to fix. Plumbing repairs and maintenance topped the list, followed by painting and decorating, and tree removal in third position.

Rob Rees, Divisional Director at Markel Direct, commented ‘Whilst it can be tempting to attempt repairs or DIY tasks yourself, the risk of getting something wrong could result in only more problems to fix. Hiring an accredited and insured tradesperson with years of experience will ensure the job is done to a high standard and, most importantly, safely.’

Cities with peaks and troughs

There are some trades that are always going to be busy, whether it’s because of seasonal demand, it’s a specialised skill or it’s a trade that provides essential services that are more likely to be called out in an emergency. So, it’s no surprise that when looking at the trade that garnered the highest overall search volume in each city, plumbers emerged as the dominant contenders.


Plumbing claimed the top spot in 44 out of the 46 cities that were analysed. This is likely due to plumbing emergencies typically being more urgent and frequent than other trade requirements such as carpet fitting or landscaping. Only two cities, Blackpool and Cardiff, defied this trend, with electricians being the most in-demand trade.

However, where there’s high demand in one city, there are others that are grappling with shortages in certain trades. Despite plumbing being the most sought-after trade, it still appears to face shortages across the UK, as it earned second place on our list behind handymen. To discern the level of demand, we collected monthly search data per 10,000 people to find out who’s looking for certain trades near them. We then compared this data to the number of trades in the area to see if the supply met the demand. The results highlighted that 12 cities, including Edinburgh, Plymouth and York, are in dire need of skilled plumbers.

Yet, the trade experiencing the largest deficit across the UK is the versatile handyman, capturing the spotlight as the trade with the biggest shortage compared to the demand. The data revealed there was a deficit of handymen/people in 15 of the 46 cities analysed. Given the multifaceted nature of the trade, these tradespeople have become indispensable for homeowners as they can address a whole array of issues ranging from minor repairs to maintenance and installations. Cities that are in urgent need of skilled handymen are Bristol, Cambridge and Liverpool, where their expertise is eagerly sought to fix an array of household issues.

DIY jobs that are most likely to be taken over by professionals

Even armed with the best intentions and a bank of self-studied YouTube videos, some projects can still go awry and end up requiring the expertise of a professional. But which undertakings are Brits venturing into with enthusiasm, only to later need to call in a professional to take over?

It turns out that plumbing repairs and maintenance take the top spot. Whether it’s grappling a clogged drain, leaky pipes, fixture insulation or other emergency repairs, 16% of Brits admit to needing help, making it the UK’s most in-demand trade. Especially because it’s common for something to go wrong if you’re not sure what you’re doing – like bursting open a pipe or creating improper drainage and inadequate sealing. For an inexperienced DIYer, these mistakes could mean costly repairs, however, professional tradespeople typically will have public liability insurance in place to protect both themselves and the homeowners in situations where mistakes are made and damage is caused (find out more about how to check if a tradesperson is insured here).

Painting and decorating claim the second spot on the list, with 15% of respondents admitting to initially trying to tackle the job themselves but having to call in reinforcements. With all the sanding, masking taping, priming and extra coats, people are opting to enlist the help of those with the skills to finish this painstaking task.

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