Construction PMI: House building drops for seventh consecutive month
House building dropped for the seventh month running in December, the UK Construction PMI has revealed.
However, the rate of decline was only modest.
The index pointed to another sharp drop in construction output with activity in negative territory for the eighth consecutive month.
Construction firms attributed this to political uncertainty and subdued client demand ahead of the General Election.
Gareth Belsham, director of the national property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, said: “Despite the injection of confidence provided by the election result, it’s too early for any Lazarus-like rise in construction activity.
“December’s PMI survey revealed an industry still largely flat on its back.
“The fall in activity has yet to bottom out; eight straight months in negative territory is an unwanted honour not seen since the dark days of a decade ago.
“With even housebuilding activity – long the most resilient sector of the industry – falling, the sharp drops in both commercial and infrastructure construction could only drag the industry average one way.”
Construction companies recorded a marked reduction in new business volumes during December, although the pace of contraction remained less severe than the 10-year record seen in August.
A number of firms suggested that greater clarity in relation to Brexit had the potential to boost order books in 2020.
Belsham added: “December could still prove a turning point.
“The clear election result, and the prospect of an end to Britain’s Brexit deadlock, could unblock months and even years of repressed demand.
“Investor confidence is still brittle, so few expect the floodgates to open suddenly in 2020.
“While construction is an industry well used to peaks and troughs, the key question is how well it might respond if demand returns to more normal levels in the coming months.
“On that front there is some encouraging news in this largely grim set of data; the exodus of construction workers has slowed noticeably.
“The key thing is that contractors have enough capacity – i.e skilled people – on tap to handle an uptick in demand.
“On this evidence the capacity is there, even if new orders have yet to follow suit.”