Stormy April sees construction output fall again

Construction output fell for a third consecutive month in April as heavy rain and strong winds buffeted the UK.

Construction output fell 1.4 per cent from March, down to a total value of £14.94bn – the lowest level since June 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

Output fell by a total of 2.2 per cent in the three months to April, having also slipped by 2 per cent in February and 0.4 per cent in March, on a month-to-month basis. 

The sector once again fared worse than the overall economy which neither grew nor contracted in April. Across the UK economy, output increased by 0.7 per cent in the three months to April.

New construction work and repair and maintenance work were both down in April – by 1.9 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively – while seven of the nine individual sectors measured were down.

Only public new work and non-residential repair and maintenance grew in April, by 3.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively. 

Construction output was also down in every region, with the North East seeing the sharpest contraction of 11.6 per cent. 

The ONS said: “Anecdotal evidence from survey returns suggests effects of heavy rainfall and strong winds affected output in April.”  

According to the Met Office, April 2024 saw 155 per cent of the long-term monthly average rainfall for April poured over the UK. It was also hit by strong winds and gales, particularly with Storm Kathleen in the earlier parts of the month. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The latest ONS figures show a worrying trend emerging, with decline in construction output recorded [three months in a row].

“While survey data collected by the ONS indicates that continued wet and windy conditions once again contributed to the struggles of construction firms, the stagnation seen across the UK economy suggests this is part of a wider problem.”

Berry added: “The performance of the construction industry is a key element of the UK’s overall economic performance. With the general election fast approaching, and all of the major political parties claiming sustainable long-term growth will be a priority, it is essential that construction receives the attention it needs.”

Scott Motley, head of programme, project and cost management at Aecom, said: “After an uptick in the broader economic climate, many will be hopeful that construction industry output will soon follow suit.

“Importantly, the upcoming general election will provide clarity on the nation’s future direction earlier than anticipated, bringing with it the prospect of a new infrastructure strategy and greater confidence in investment decisions in the second half of the year. However, the continued high cost of doing business will still make for challenging landscape post-election until interest rates drop significantly.”

Fraser Johns, finance director at Beard, said: “Given the poor weather conditions seen in April, it should be hardly surprising to see a drop in monthly construction output. A sixth consecutive fall in the three-month series is more troubling, however it shows the mixed bag of the industry in the current climate.

“While there are those across the country undoubtedly experiencing challenges and significant pressures, from our perspective, the south of England remains incredibly buoyant with growing confidence and demand from both clients and regional and national frameworks helping to fill our pipeline.

“Despite today’s data, momentum does seem to be building, as is confidence. We still expect some bumps in the road, particularly with the upcoming general election, but even so, we certainly believe that the prospects look good for the remainder of the year.”

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