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Official stats show construction output ‘worst on record’

The construction output figures from the Office of National Statistics have confirmed that output in the construction sector is at its lowest point ever.

The figures confirm what the Construction Products Association highlighted in last month’s State of Trade Survey, that total output in construction during the first quarter of 2009 fell an unprecedented 16% compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

The fall is the sharpest on record.

Private housing output fell 32% compared to a year ago and 2009 Q1 new orders are 50% lower than a year earlier. Industrial new build has had its largest fall on record fell 40% compared to a year ago, the largest fall on record and given that new orders in industrial fell a staggering 62% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a year earlier, industrial output will be expected to fall further during 2009.

Private housing repair and maintenance in the first quarter of 2009 fell 10% compared to a year earlier and 16% compared to the previous quarter, with lower economic activity and job insecurity hitting consumer confidence and consequently, the improvements market.

Public housing fell 12% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a year ago, especially disappointing in the light of government’s announcements in the last Pre-budget 2008 and Budget of increased funding for public housing.

Even in infrastructure, expected to be buoyed by significant workloads in rail, output in the first quarter of 2009 was 5% lower than one year earlier.

Commenting on these latest figures, Noble Francis, economics director of the Construction Products Association said: “These figures confirm the seriousness of the downturn that is facing the industry. There is clearly a lot of pain still to be had.

“However, the government has shown its desire to bring forward capital spending to help provide a fiscal stimulus to the economy, unfortunately it is unclear exactly how this money is being spent and what it is intended to deliver. With the industry facing such gloomy prospects, it is therefore essential that the government recognises the urgency of the situation and ensures that these announcements feed through to actual work on the ground.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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