Construction output begins to rise after record decline in April

Construction output grew by 8.2% in May 2020 following the record decline of 40.2% in April, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report.

Construction output fell by a record 29.8% in the three months to May, compared with the previous three-month period. This was driven by record falls of 30.3% in new work and 28.9% in repair and maintenance.

The decrease in new work (30.3%) in the three months to May was thanks to record falls in most of the new work sectors – private new housing and private commercial were the largest contributors, falling by 42.5% and 29.5% respectively.

The decrease in repair and maintenance (28.9%) in the three months to May was due to record falls in all repair and maintenance sectors – the largest contributor was private housing repair and maintenance, which fell by 39.8%.

Following the large record monthly falls in April across all construction industry sectors, in May there was monthly growth across all sectors, apart from public other new work and public housing repair and maintenance.

Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consulting and design agency, McBains, said: “After two successive months of record falls in output, the construction sector was bracing itself for more bad news – and today’s [14 July] figures reflect just how much of a historic downturn the industry is experiencing.

“In particular, record decreases of more than 40% in new housing work and almost 30% in commercial work over the three months to May highlight how essential it is that the government does all it can to get construction moving again.

“Although May saw a rebound as construction started to return to work, this is all relative, with output 38.8% lower compared with February before the pandemic hit. It will take several months for the sector to truly recover.”

Ongoing struggle for small builders strengthens case for targeted recovery, says Federation of Master Builders

Jessica Levy, director of communications at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Despite a healthy rebound in May driven mainly by new housebuilding activity, construction output remains at historic lows, and the quarterly and annual trends paint a bleak picture. We need to both act now to reverse the huge falls resulting from the recent shock of the pandemic – especially in the domestic repair and maintenance sector – as well as focus on building back better.”

Jessica continued: “The construction sector welcomed short-term boosts like the Green Homes Grants and the £1,000 bonus to take on new trainees in construction. But we also need the government to back a longer-term vision to sustain the much-needed recovery. This should include a temporary and targeted cut in VAT, a national retrofit strategy, and support to carefully match new recruits to the right construction firms.”