March building work lifts sector to record high: ONS  


Construction output lifted by 0.2% in March, data from the Office for National Statistics shows, which helped push the sector to its highest level since records began.  

New building work rose by 0.7%, which partially offset a fall in repair and maintenance volumes of 0.6% in March.   

In February, construction jumped by 2.6%, which taken together with last today’s figures, marks the highest level of the sector’s output since records began in January 2010, the data body points out.  

At the category level in March, infrastructure new work and public other new work, rose by 2.2% and 6.5%, respectively.  

Over the first quarter of the year, construction output increased 0.7%, compared to a 1.9% fall in the final three months of last year.  

However, over the first quarter, new orders were down by 12.4%, weighed by private commercial and private housing new orders, which tumbled by 22.3% and 18.4%, respectively.  

Beard Construction finance director Fraser Johns says: “The story of the first quarter as a whole was one of volatility as a lack of confidence carried over from last year, resulted in a difficult January and repair and maintenance making up for new work.   

“However, the March data shows the tide beginning to turn with an increase in new work offsetting a fall in repair and maintenance, and another increase in monthly construction output.   

“As we’ve headed further into the year, there’s no question the outlook has improved, helping to alleviate some of the bottlenecks and cost pressures found on site and encourage greater confidence among clients and firms.   

He adds: “It’s positive to see more clients committing to new projects once again and the likes of infrastructure new work and public other new work continuing to be key drivers.   

“Rather than ‘all systems go’, today’s news should be seen as positive progress.   

“After all, there are still struggles across a number of key sectors such as housebuilding, and the stubborn nature of inflation is definitely creating pockets of uncertainty.”  

Charles Russell Speechlys construction law partner David Savage points out: “As we emerge from a challenging winter period, the Office for National Statistics figures are generally painting a brighter picture for the sector, and indeed the wider economy.   

“The March figure benefited from a 0.7% increase in new work, albeit also seeing a decrease in repair and maintenance work — a fall of 0.6% — and the category of activity which had contributed so positively to the February figures.  

“Thanks to fading recession fears and an improving global economic outlook, the sector can look forward with renewed confidence as the productive summer months approach.”  

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