Construction output suffers first fall since December

Output in the UK construction industry fell 2.0% in April 2021 following a strong 5.8% increase in March, new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today have revealed.

New work continues to be subdued but the level of repair and maintenance is stronger meaning output now stands slightly above its pre-pandemic February 2020 level.

Monthly construction fell by 2.0% in April 2021 because of declines in both new work (2.9%) and repair and maintenance (0.6%).

The level of construction output in April 2021 remains 0.3% above the February 2020 pre-pandemic level despite the monthly fall; while new work was 3.4% below the February 2020 level, repair and maintenance work remains 7.1% above the February 2020 level.

In contrast to the monthly fall, construction output grew by 5.1% in the three months to April 2021 compared with the previous three-month period, because of a 5.2% increase in new work and 4.9% increase in repair and maintenance.

The increase in new work (5.2%) in the three months to April 2021 was because of growth in all new work sectors apart from private industrial, which fell by 3.6%; the largest contributor to this growth was private commercial new work, which grew by 7.4%.

The increase in repair and maintenance (4.9%) in the three months to April 2021 was because of growth in non-housing and private housing repair and maintenance, which grew by 6.2% and 6.6% respectively.

Clive Docwra, managing director of property and construction consultancy McBains, said: “Output falling by 2.0% in April is a cause for concern for the construction sector, but may reflect the fact that growth over March was higher than expected.

Today’s figures also show that although confidence is returning to the construction sector, this remains delicate and growth in specific work sectors is mixed.  While overall output remains just above pre-pandemic levels, driven by an increase in repair and maintenance work, new work contracts declined which bucks recent growth trends.

Private new housing work was the largest contribitutor to this fall, which will pose a risk to the Government’s housebuilding targets.”

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