Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

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Construction output growth slows

10 December 2020
Source: ONS

Growth in construction output in October slowed to its smallest monthly increase for the last six months, according to new official figures.

Data on construction output from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that there was a 1% month-on-month increase in construction output during the month, rising to £13,066m. It was the sixth consecutive month of growth since a record decline of 41.2% in April 2020 but output in October 2020 still remains 6.4% (£898m) below the February 2020 level, before the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both new housing and housing repair and maintenance saw a large decline in March and April 2020 and have since bounced back strongly, whereas other types of work such as infrastructure and public other new work saw a comparatively smaller fall in March and April 2020 and have registered relatively small growth since.

Infrastructure is the only part of the construction sector to have recovered to a level above the pre-lockdown level of output.

Commenting on the figures, Caroline Gumble, chief executive at the CIOB, said: “Throughout this year, I have been consistently impressed with how resilient the construction industry has been in these uncertain times, although it does look like early 2021 will be challenging. Construction is a key driver of the economy and will bounce back. However, in order to ensure the industry is supported and can play its role in the economic recovery, the CIOB would like to see the government make a national retrofit plan an infrastructure priority and a core element of the Industrial Strategy. This will provide a clear direction of travel for the construction industry and the certainty the private sector needs to invest in improving the energy efficiency of our built environment.”

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at public sector procurement organisation Scape, said: “The real-time picture in construction remains encouraging with a good momentum behind the sector as it comes to the end of an undoubtedly turbulent year.

“The story behind these numbers is largely that of a public-sector driven recovery, which makes this week’s publication of the Construction Playbook all the more timely. It provides the roadmap for turning the government’s desire for ‘better, faster, greener’ delivery into a practical reality.   

“Whilst the pressure on the public sector to drive construction output will continue well into 2021, the industry can only return to full health once a broader construction pipeline is exposed. There is however, a clear end in sight for the pandemic with the nationwide vaccination programme, which will be key to restoring industry-wide confidence. 

“Brexit however raises immediate concerns, with rising material and labour costs already affecting sites across the UK. Ultimately, the prospect of a disruptive end to the transition period risks magnifying an already challenging situation and cutting into the gains the industry has made during the final months of the year.”