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Construction output leaps ahead

Construction output in the UK jumped 5.8 per cent in March, more than the double of the country’s GDP growth in the same period, according to the latest data release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures, which were released last week, show that GDP grew by 2.1 per cent in March, which was the fastest monthly growth since last August.

In a statement, the ONS said this was driven by growth in new work, repair, and maintenance.  Good weather and rising demand were also cited by the ONS as factors. The sector is now 2.4 per cent above its February 2020 level.

According to the ONS, “The construction sector expanded by 2.6 per cent in the three months to March 2021. The main contributors in new work were infrastructure and private new housing which grew by 4.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively, while the main driver in repair and maintenance was non-housing repair and maintenance which grew 3.2 per cent.”

Consequently, said the ONS, “Growth to construction for January and February 2021 have been upwardly revised to 0.4 per cent (up by 0.4 percentage points) and 2.3 per cent (up by 0.7 percentage points) respectively, mainly because of late survey returns.”

Total construction new orders grew by 12.2 per cent (£1,227 million) in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2021 compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2020, following a 7.8 per cent (£848 million) fall in Quarter 4 2020.

Fraser Johns, CEO of major construction firm Beard, said that despite the growth there were still significant challenges ahead.

He said that the construction industry had been through the largest economic shock since the Second World War and had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

He added: “An increase in demand and confidence boosted by the vaccine rollout and a roadmap out the crisis has played its part. Now the challenge is to build on that success by ensuring we attract the talented professionals required to take our industry forward.

“But in the short term we also have a significant challenge to face in terms of materials shortages, which in many areas is verging on a crisis. As an industry we must find ways to work around and plan ahead with supply chains to mitigate any serious delays, otherwise we’re in real danger of undermining our comeback from ground zero a year ago.”

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