Output volumes for the UK’s construction have been rising steadily, according to statistics from IHS Markit.
The figures, which were released just before the weekend, showed that the rise in overall new orders was the fastest rise since September 2014. However, this was tempered by an increased rate of input cost inflation, now at its highest since April 1997.
Known as the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI Total Activity Index, the output volumes were measured at 61.6 in April, which was slightly down from the previous month’s 61.7. Any figure above 50.0 indicates an overall expansion of construction output. The index has posted in growth territory in ten of the past eleven months, with January 2021 the exception.
In a statement, IHS Markit said that the recovery had been led by recoveries in civil engineering activity, commercial work, and house building.
Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said: “New orders surged higher in April as the end of lockdown spurred contract awards on previously delayed commercial development projects. This added to the spike in workloads from robust housing demand and the delivery of major infrastructure programmes such as HS2.”
However, Moore sounded a less-optimistic note when talking about the problems the industry was facing. He said: “Shortages of construction materials and much longer wait times for deliveries from suppliers were a sting in the tail for the sector. Aggregates, timber, steel, cement and concrete products were all widely reported as in short supply by survey respondents.”
Of all the sector, commercial work was the best-performing in construction output through April, according to IHS Markit, even if its rate of expansion had eased from the previous month. The numbers for house building also showed something of a decline on the previous month. Civil engineering, however, showed its fastest speed of recovery since September 2014.
Mike Hedges, director at Beard, said that the resurgence was largely due to the notion that the coronavirus pandemic was starting its endgame, at least in the UK. He added: “Throughout the pandemic there has been understandable hesitancy from clients as they wait to see the direction we head in, however with light appearing at the end of the tunnel, clients are now ready to hit the green button.”
However, he said there were key challenges ahead. He added: “Positivity in the sector resulted in the fastest rise in overall new orders since September 2014. However, a key challenge for the industry is material shortages and delays in supply. These current delays are best navigated and planned for in new projects on a collaborative basis, leading to a very positive outlook for the construction sector overall. Client confidence appears to have returned, and as we head into the summer months, sunnier skies appear ahead.”
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