Construction workloads return to pre-pandemic levels
Construction output topped its pre-pandemic level in March, according to the Office for National Statistics.
New data showed £14.25bn worth of work was done in March. It was the highest level recorded since September 2019 and far above the £13.92bn reported in February 2020, the month before the pandemic severely affected the UK. It is the first time the pre-pandemic output level has been exceeded.
Scape group chief executive Mark Robinson said: “The continued growth in output reaffirms the construction industry’s resilience and ability to overcome the challenges it has faced over the last 12 months.”
On a quarterly basis, which smooths out monthly volatility, infrastructure work saw the strongest growth, with output up 4.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the final quarter of 2020. RSM partner and head of construction Kelly Boorman said: “Outlook in March was positive and the construction industry continued its V-shaped recovery. Infrastructure remains strong as onsite operating and safety measures are markedly easier than in other sub-sectors, and delayed work was carried out to breathe life back into locked down communities.”
Construction of public and private housing up just over 3.6 per quarter on quarter and commercial work was up 3 per cent.
New orders also rose just over 12 per cent in the first quarter of the year to £11.31bn compared to £10.08bn in the final quarter of 2020.
There were warnings that the industry’s strong recovery could be affected by inflation pressures. Clive Docwra, managing director of property and construction consultancy McBains, said: “With margins already tight, the rising cost of raw materials threaten to negate any profit gains, so many construction firms remain on a knife-edge. These increasing costs also serve as a warning sign of global inflationary pressures, which could derail any sustained longer term growth.”
The recent PMI survey for April reported construction costs were rising at the fastest pace since the survey began in 1997.