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Construction output recovers after two months of declines

10 July 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: Dreamstime/Bogdan Hoda

Construction output has recovered slightly after two consecutive months of declines, according to the latest official figures.

Output rose by 0.6% month on month in May this year, following successive drops in March and April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The increase was driven by growth in both new work and repair and maintenance, which grew by 0.4% and 1.2% respectively.

Output growth was flat (0%) in the most recent three-month period compared with the three months prior, reflecting weakness in March and April, which saw declines of 1.5% and 0.5% respectively.

Over the three-month period, there was a mixed pattern of rises and falls across the construction sector. Repair and maintenance saw a slight decline of 0.5%, while new work grew by 0.3%. In repair and maintenance, declines were driven by housing repair and maintenance, with private and public housing repair and maintenance being down by 2.5% and 3.2% respectively. This was slightly offset by a 1.7% growth in non-housing repair and maintenance.

The growth in new work was driven by public housing and private commercial new work, which grew by 8.4% and 2.2%, with a smaller contribution from a 1.3% increase in infrastructure new work. But these were offset by a decline in public other new work, which fell by 9%.

Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consulting and design agency McBains, said: “The construction industry will give a cautious welcome to these figures, as they show a moderate increase in output in May after two successive falls in March and April.  We expected a much bleaker picture given the continuing fog surrounding Brexit and pessimistic predictions of a sluggish economy.

“Growth of 2.2% in private commercial new work and 8.4% in public new housing was also better than forecast.

“We fear this could be a temporary bounce however, as the longer-term outlook is one of uncertainty with many projects on hold until the detail of the UKs EU withdrawal becomes clearer.”

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