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29Oct92 UK: ORDERS CONTINUE DOWNWARD TREND - CONTRACTORS' NEW ORDERS DOWN 10% IN THREE MONTHS TO AUGUST.

New orders won by contractors dropped 10 per cent in the three months to August, compared with the same period a year ago, despite rising 5 per cent on the previous three months.The latest government figures show that the hardest hit sector continues to be commercial building, running at 25 per cent below a year ago.They also show a decline in government spending on roads. In the three months to August, road orders won by contractors were more than a third down in cash terms than a year ago.The few signs of hope remain in the public sector, particularly social housing.Orders for new work let by housing associations in June to August were 21 per cent up on the pervious year and 10 per cent up on the previous three months.This is in stark contrast to the struggling private housing sector, which is in its fourth year of recession. Orders in this sector were 14 per cent down on a year ago, despite increasing by 4 per cent over the previous three months.Industrial work is holding up better than most of the private sector, although this is largely due to the buoyancy of the privatised industries - notable water. But even in this sector orders were down 8 per cent on a year ago as a result of a cut in investment by business.