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Construction not in recession after ONS revisions

Revisions to ONS data covering July to October 2017 have shown that construction did not enter recession last year.

The revisions based on new data show output was flat or increasing on a three-month-on-three-month basis for the four months to October.

A recession technically occurs after six months of decline, with initial data having suggested this was the case for the six months to October.

CPA senior economist Rebecca Larkin said: “The recession has been revised away and that’s what he had expected when we saw the recession that was reported at the end of 2017, so the revision upwards is not necessarily surprising.”

She added: “The lack of recession has been reported in other industry surveys, including our own.”

However, data for February showed that output fell by 0.8 per cent for the rolling three-month period, which is the fourth consecutive period of decline back to November 2017.

Ms Larkin said: “It’s important to bear in mind that construction activity is at a record high, so if there are quarters of negative growth, that’s not necessarily surprising as you never get a straight upward line of growth.”

Commercial and R&MI output, which fell by 1.4 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively, both dragged heavily on the figures for the rolling three-month period to February.

Commercial output hit its lowest level since May 2016.

February’s overall lower output has been partially attributed to the bad weather that hit the UK.

“This release will capture some of the impact of the snow disruption during the first quarter of the year, equivalent to one working day at the end of February,” Ms Larkin said.

“Output for the month was £206m lower than in January and while it cannot all be attributed to weather disruption, a pause in activity on sites across the country would have been unavoidable.”

Infrastructure performed better in the period, with output up 1.3 per cent, while private housing output increase by 2.8 per cent.

Naismisths managing director of Blane Perrotton said: “These strong points are increasingly looking like outliers, as commercial property demand cools and developers concentrate on completing existing projects rather than commissioning new ones.

“Though the economic backdrop remains benign – with low interest rates, readily available finance and a resurgent pound bringing down the cost of imported construction materials – the construction industry’s magic ingredient, confidence, remains scarce.”

Data from March’s PMI survey recorded the steepest drop in construction activity since July 2016, which was primarily attributed to snow disruption.

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