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February posts the highest monthly growth for construction since September 2020

by Jennie Ward

ONS data shows output grew by 1.6% in Feb as the sector continues its recovery, but challenges still remain with regards to materials shortages.

The latest figures from ONS show that construction output grew by 1.6% in February, with a 1.5% increase in new work and 1.9% increase in repair and maintenance, making this the highest monthly growth in all work since September 2020.

The 1.5% monthly increase in new work in February 2021 was due to growth in all new work sectors apart from infrastructure which fell by 3.4%, with the largest contributor to this growth being private commercial new work, which grew by 4%.

The monthly increase in repair and maintenance (1.9%) was reportedly due to growth in private and non-housing repair and maintenance, which grew 4.7% and 2.6% respectively, offsetting the 8.6% fall in public housing repair and maintenance.

The data also shows, however, that the level of construction output in February 2021 was still 4.3% below the February 2020 level; while new work was 7.8% below the Feb 2020 level but repair and maintenance was 2.2% above the February 2020 level.

Commenting on new figures,  Clive Docwra, Managing Director of property and construction consultancy McBains, said: “Today’s figures are another sign that construction industry is maintaining its recovery following the downturn over the last year.  Confidence is still fragile in some work sectors, but there’s a definite feeling of the glass being half full, rather than half empty.

“Especially cheering is the growth in private commercial new work, which grew by 4%, suggesting that order books are beginning to be filled on a more regular basis.  Projects in many sectors have been paused while lockdown measures have been in place, but the lifting this week of restrictions in retail, hospitality and leisure will hopefully also kick-start investment in construction within these industries. 

“Recovery will be a long haul however, as output still remains more than 4% below pre-pandemic levels.

“One factor that could further affect the recovery are reports of materials shortages.  Cement, timber and steel are already in short supply, and where products like these are imported from countries experiencing surges in COVID cases, it’s having a particular impact.”

View the latest data here

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