There’s really no definitive way of knowing exactly how much a builder charges because every contract is different and each rate is negotiated on a job-by-job basis. But there is a lot of evidence around that labour rates are softening across the board in response to the recession.
Having said that, recession bites in some funny and unexpected ways. I keep hearing about builders who are rushed off their feet and have order books as long as ever. A plumber I know locally (in Linton, Cambs) told me he’d never known it so slow, but that his brother (a plumber in Swindon, Wilts) was snowed under, so much so that my local plumber was now working three days a week in Swindon. Just why Swindon should be busy, whilst Cambridgeshire is quiet, seems to defy common sense, but that’s often what happens.
Other tit bits. A groundworker I know was getting £160 a day for agency work a year ago. Now the rate is £80 a day. Ouch if you are looking for work but good news if you are paying for it. My bricklaying contact tells me that the rate per thousand bricks laid has softened from around £420/k down to £360/k (though be warned that this rate is subject to a lot of regional variation — many quieter areas of the country never got as high as £360/k in the boom). And at EcoBuild last week, I gleaned that rates for timber frame erection were down from £20/m2 to £15/m2.