ONS reveals construction output fell 0.7% in March

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show construction output dipped in March, despite a slight a quarter-on-quarter rise during the first three months of 2017.

Output rose by 0.2% in the January to March 2017 period, the fifth consecutive quarterly rise, the ONS said, describing the figure as “in line with the estimate for construction output included in the preliminary estimate of gross domestic product for January to March 2017”.

However, on a month-on-month basis, construction output fell for the third consecutive month, decreasing 0.7% in March 2017. Other points in the ONS statistical release include:

• New housing experienced strong growth in March, increasing month-on-month by 3.8%; month-on-year by 5.4%; and quarter-on-quarter by 0.2%

• Repair and maintenance provided the main downward pressure on construction output, shrinking both month-on-month and quarter-on-quarter by 1.8% and 0.2% respectively

• In comparison with the same period in 2016, construction output grew by 2.4% in March 2017, representing the 12th consecutive period of month-on-year growth

Responding to the figures, Michael Thirkettle, chief executive of McBains Cooper, said: “After a period of relative stability following Brexit, recent evidence has pointed towards a slowdown in construction as concern grows about what EU withdrawal will mean for the construction industry. These latest figures bear out such concerns.

“Political parties of all stripes are now set to outline ambitious manifesto targets to increase housebuilding but these will be hollow promises unless they are backed by concerted action to address skills shortages and increase access to finance, meaning no end in sight for the housing crisis.

“Whoever wins on 8 June, Brexit will occupy much of the government’s focus over the next two years, and consequently there will be continuing caution from the private and corporate sectors in construction. Yet the industry needs the opposite – some bold moves and big investments – if it is to produce sustained growth any time soon.”

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