UK construction output bounces back as house building rises

British construction output bounced back in March, offering signs that the sector might be ending a period of weakness, as private-sector house-building rose for the first time in six months.

Construction output rose by 3.9% in March, above economists' expectations, after dropping by 0.3% in February, a smaller decrease than earlier estimated, the Office for National Statistics said.

Looking at the first quarter as a whole output was down by 1.1%, less of a decline than the estimate of a 1.6% drop used in last month's preliminary estimate of first-quarter gross domestic product.

Construction makes up about 6% of Britain's economy. The ONS said that combined with an upward revision to first-quarter industrial output data released on Tuesday, Friday's new data could push up April's 0.3% estimate of GDP growth by just under 0.06 percentage points.

Britain's construction industry grew strongly for most of 2014 but started to cool towards the end of the year.

The ONS said March's rise was driven by a 20% increase in non-housing repair and maintenance work, which may have been partly due to seasonal effects which are not fully stripped out of the data.

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