Business confidence in the UK construction sector is at its highest for nearly nine years, according to latest industry analysis.

The optimistic outlook came despite Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) results for March, which recorded a rating of 57.8, down from 60.1 in February – still above the 50.0 mark indicating positive performance.

While there was slowdown in rates of growth, more than half of those surveyed said that 2015 would see construction output increase.

According to the latest figures, housing remained the strongest industry sector, followed by commercial construction. The weakest performing segment was civil engineering.

Though output eased compared with February’s results, companies reported that their increased level of confidence was linked to wider improvement in the UK economy.

However, there was a note of caution from some firms in the run-up to the General Election – which has led to clients delaying spending decisions. The rate of job hiring has also slackened to its lowest rate of growth since December, 2013.

Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, said, “UK construction output growth has settled in at a strong pace so far in 2015, although the recovery has lost some of its swagger since last year.

He added, “UK construction companies are highly upbeat about their prospects for growth over the course of the next 12 months, helped by an improving economy, strong order books and a healthy pool of new invitations to tender.”

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