Association cautious about UK figures

By Sandy Guthrie13 April 2012

UK construction output is estimated to have been lower in February this year than in the same month in 2011, although there was a small rise in the December to February figure compared with 12 months ago.

The UK government's main survey organisation, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said that at constant prices and not seasonally adjusted, the total volume of construction output in February 2012 was estimated to have been 4.6% lower than in February 2011.

It said, however, that comparing the three months from December 2011 to February 2012 with that of the same three-month period a year ago, the volume of construction output rose by 0.2%. New work fell by 0.5% but repair and maintenance grew by 1.4%.

The ONS found that over the recent three-month period, the volume of new infrastructure work increased by 6.1%, private commercial new work increased by 6.5%. Private new housing increased by 4.6% and non-housing repair and maintenance increased by 5.0%.

It said, though, that these rises were almost completely offset by falls in other sectors - the largest of which was a fall of 16.9% in new public non-housing work.

The UK's Construction Products Association said that despite the February ONS figures showing an increase of 6% compared with January, it remained cautious about the prospects for the industry over the rest of the year.

Noble Francis, economics director said that this positive figure had to be seen against the background of a 13% decline in output in January.

He said, "Construction faces a very uncertain future with the latest new orders falling 14%, and private sector investment still not growing at a rate to compensate for the sharp falls in public sector spending on construction.

"Despite these positive figures for February it is now inevitable that construction output will fall in the first quarter of the year and have a negative effect on the growth in GDP."

In its last publication, for January 2012, the ONS reported that the fourth quarter of 2011 had decreased by 0.2% compared with the third quarter 2011 (constant prices, seasonally adjusted).

However, it said the estimate for the fourth quarter of 2011, non-seasonally adjusted, had now been revised upwards by just under 1%. It plans to publish the revised seasonally adjusted figure with the March and first quarter of 2012 publication.

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