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Industry output down 4.7pc

Construction output plunged 4.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, official statistics showed today.

The fall was in contrast with most industries across the UK as GDP rose 0.5 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Manufacturing rose by 1.1 per cent, business services and finance grew by 1.0 per cent and transport, storage and communication increased by 2.7 per cent, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Construction Products Association chief executive Michael Ankers said the big fall in construction work was a shock.

“The scale of this fall in the official figures is extremely surprising and is not consistent with information from construction industry surveys or the experience of the companies and sectors that the association represents,” he said.

“The indications are that the construction industry performed better in the first three months than the ONS figures suggest. The industry was helped partly by an element of bounce back from the last few weeks of 2010 when the extreme weather severely curtailed construction activity in many parts of the country, and also by the exceptionally mild and dry weather throughout the whole of the first quarter of the year.”

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association warned that construction was acting as “a major brake on a full economic recovery”.

Director of external affairs Alasdair Reisners said: “Accounting for a sizeable proportion of GDP in the UK, until a resolution can be found to the construction sector’s continuing weakness, the sector may well be preventing the recovery from becoming sustainable.

“Only by creating the conditions to encourage greater investment in construction and infrastructure from the private sector can the government help to create a self-sustaining economic recovery.”

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