The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published its latest estimates of output in the construction industry for February 2014.
In the report, the ONS said:
In February 2014, the UK experienced a series of adverse weather conditions, with the Met Office reporting “a succession of major winter storms...strong winds, heavy rain and significant weather impacts including extensive flooding”. This has coincided with a 2.8% fall in construction output compared to the previous month, the strongest fall since November 2013.
Within this, total new work and repair and maintenance both fell on the month, by 2.6% and 3.1% respectively.
These data follow similar reports from private sector sources. While most private indicators of construction activity picked up throughout 2013 and 2014, a number were seen to temporarily depart from this trend in February 2014. Many also cited adverse weather conditions as the primary reason for lower activity levels, especially in the housebuilding sector.
The 2.6% fall in total new work was broad based (with four out of the six sub-sectors falling compared to the previous month), though the main downward contribution to total new work came from falling private new housing activity.
Comparing February 2014 with the previous month, private sector new housing activity fell by 6.3%, the strongest fall seen since March 2013, when the construction industry was also affected by unseasonably low temperatures and heavy snowfall. However, this follows a pickup in output over the last year, with a backdrop of rising property prices, housing transactions, improved secured credit conditions and increased mortgage lending. As a result, private new housing output has risen by 15.3% compared to February 2013.
It has been widely reported that the storms, strong winds and flooding resulted in damage to buildings and infrastructure, however, subsequent repair work is yet to be recorded in ONS data.
Repair and maintenance work fell by 3.1% on the month; this was also broad based across the housing and non-housing sectors, and among both the public and private sectors.
More generally, the latest data highlights a growing divergence in the performance of construction output in the private and public sectors. Comparing the latest month with the previous year, private sector construction output has risen by 1.0% while public sector output has fallen by 6.0%.
Over the whole recovery period, this divergence can partly be explained by a stronger recovery in private new housing activity relative to public new housing since 2010.