BUYERS have taken advantage of increased competition between suppliers by forcing down the rate of inflation on materials prices to an 11-month low.
Contractors are paying higher prices for materials such as bitumen, bricks and windows, but the rate of inflation has slowed.
The latest Construction Purchasing Managers Index market research report shows buyers have seen a decrease in activity in the civil engineering sector - now at its lowest level since August 2002.
Its quantity of purchase index revealed that buying activity during January dropped from December figures and the rate of growth in purchasing was the slowest since July 2002.
But construction firms reported a robust growth in business during January, with the new orders index showing a sharp rise in new business.
Suppliers are having trouble getting orders to contractors, with delivery times down for the 46th month in succession.
Roy Ayliffe, director of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, said: 'January saw purchasing managers take advantage of competition between suppliers. Optimism for this sector remains very high.'