All construction work in Great Britain grew by 2.8% in January 2019, reversing the 2.8% decline seen in December 2018 according to the Office for National Statistics.
Despite the volatility in recent months, January 2019 showed steady growth, with the January output 1.8% higher in 2019 than the same month a year earlier.
However, the three-month on three-month series for all work experienced a decline of 0.6% in January 2019.
This decrease was driven by a fall of 2.3% in the all repair and maintenance series, which was offset by an increase of 0.3% in the all new work series.
There were also falls in non-housing at type-of-work level, with private housing repair down 3.2% and maintenance also declining at a rate of and 2.3%.
The biggest factor offsetting this was public new housing, which grew by 5.0%, but due to the small size of this series there was minimal impact on the top-level figures.
New orders fell by 1.9% in fourth quarter – October to December 2018 – against the previous quarter. All other work decreased by 3.8%, more than offsetting the 2.3% growth in all new housing during the same period.
Clive Docwra, managing director of consulting and design agency McBains, said, “The January figures are moderately encouraging, especially given the shadow of a no-deal Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the EU) looming large, which we expected to see reflected in a contraction – or at least a slowdown – in output.
“Many of our clients are telling us they are biding their time before they commit to investing in new projects until the whole Brexit situation becomes clearer as evidenced by today’s statistics showing a fall in new orders over the last quarter of 2018.”
However, the CEO of public-sector organisation Scape Group, Mark Robinson, said, “The construction sector’s traditionally sluggish December was slowed down even further by the gloomy economic backdrop, but activity made a U-turn in January.
“Businesses were no longer prepared to wait out the Brexit storm and have started getting on with the business of building. The pick-up in repairs and maintenance and new infrastructure work demonstrates that.”
Senior economist at the UK’s Construction Products Association Rebecca Larkin said that when combined, private housing and commercial and private housing renovation, maintenance and improvement accounted for half of total construction output.
“Any weakness in these sectors will provide an unavoidable drag on overall activity. The last three months of data have been as volatile as the political backdrop, but looking at the broader picture, output has remained at relatively high levels over the last 12 months.”