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Business barometer

ECONOMY

Below are some key data sources on construction performance:

Output Overall construction output in 2005 fell by 1 per cent compared with 2004, the first fall in the industry since 1994.

The fourth quarter for 2005 remained unchanged on the previous quarter.

Despite increases in the private housing, private industrial and private commercial sectors new work fell back as infrastructure and public sector work suffered.

The RM&I figures was unchanged, with increases in the public housing and public non-housing R&M being offset by a decrease in the private housing sector. www. dti. gov. uk

Orders Orders in the 12 months to February 2006 rose 8 per cent compared with a year earlier, with orders in the three months to February up 9 per cent on a year earlier.

Housing orders in the 12 months to February rose soundly with private housing up 7 per cent and social housing orders up 6 per cent.

www. dti. gov. uk

CPA Construction products sales rose in the first quarter of 2006 for the first time in over a year. The Construction Products Association's quarterly Barometer Survey records a score of 59, above the 50 no change mark for the first time in 12 months.

The increase in product sales occurred across both the heavy and light side of the industry with manufacturers of heavy side products gaining welcome relief after two tough years. www. constprod. org. uk

NHBC NHBC latest statistics show UK applications to build new homes in February 2006 up 7 per cent on last year's f igure. New build completions for the combined public and private sectors were 9 per cent up on the same month last year.

www. nhbc. co. uk

RICS Overall growth in construction workload accelerated for the second quarter in a row, workloads are rising at the fastest pace since the second quarter of 2004, according to the latest RICS construction survey.

The strongest sectors were private housing and private commercial, which drove up the overall workload.

Public housing workloads are almost unchanged, the weakest result since the third quarter of 2002.

Regionally, Scotland and Wales led the way on growing rates.

The growth in workloads in the north accelerated sharply for the second quarter, while London and the south-east and the south-west saw growth slow. www. rics. org

CIPS CIPS recorded its highest reading for the Construction Purchasing Managers Index for six months in March, ref lecting stronger growth of new orders.

The latest data signalled that the rate of expansion of UK construction activity accelerated for the second consecutive month in March, ref lecting stronger acquisitions of new business among constructors.

The headline PMI index hit 54.7, well above the 51.9 recorded in February.

www. cips. org. uk

FMB Small and medium sized builder's fortunes remain on the down turn through the fourth quarter of 2005, according to the latest FMB survey.

This was the weakest state of trade since the present survey methodology was adopted in 1999.

The survey showed just 28 per cent of firms enjoyed workload growth in the quarter against 38 per cent that saw a fall. It also showed a slump in the result for existing private housing repair and maintenance.

Both commercial work and repair and maintenance for private sector clients are weaker than at anytime in the past seven years. www. fmb. org. uk

Labour Market Su rvey LMS data showed vacancy levels for construction jobs at their highest level since autumn 2001.

In the year to February 2006 vacancy rates for construction workers rose 13.3 per cent while across all industries vacancies fell by 4.5 per cent.

Redundancies in the construction industry towards the end of 2005 dropped by 9.9 per cent, while across all industries redundancies fell by only 0.3 per cent. www. statistics. gov. uk

Regional forecast by Experian Business Strategies The latest Experian region forecasts for construction suggest the strong growth in the northerly economies is unlikely to continue.

To 2008, construction output in the south is forecast to respond to meet demand created by the area's growing population and above average economic expansion.

www. construction-forecast. com