The government this week tried to play down the significance of the reversal in the country’s economic growth, insisting it was just a spot of stormy weather - literally.
Labour politicians rushed to say “we told you this would happen”, as the mainstream press reported the figures as a “shock GDP contraction”.
But the construction industry, whose output also fell last quarter, has been insisting for months that all was not well on the economic front and a double-dip recession was still likely.
The Construction Products Association has repeatedly argued that the previously reported growth was overinflated. Ironically, one of the reasons they gave for this was that the statisticians hadn’t taken enough account of the effect on construction firms of last year’s snow - making the recovery look stronger than it was.
This week there is another lesson in the impact of unusual weather conditions. The floods in Australia are expected to cause a sharp increase in the price of steel all over the world.
Rising demand meant prices were already on the up; a spike could actually threaten the viability of schemes,particularly in the commercial sector, where the cost of a project could rise by 1-2 per cent.
As with some politicians, contractors and developers may be reluctant to discuss these difficult matters openly, in the mistaken belief that if they’re not acknowledged out loud they might go away. Not so. An increase in steel prices is on the way, and the sooner all links in the supply chain discuss
who’ll bear the costs, the better.