Following lacklustre industrial production figures for November 2015 earlier in the week, the Office for National Statistics today published even less sparkling construction output data for November. Output is estimated to have fallen both month-on-month, and year-on-year.
The following chart, from the TUC Touchstone blog of today by Geoff Tily, ("If 'we are the builders', why is construction now in recession?") shows the evolution - and recent months' continuing decline - in the construction index of production. Output peaked in April 2015 and is now some 4% lower.
Index of production
In November 2015, ONS estimate that output in the construction industry decreased by 0.5% compared with October 2015. “All new work” fell back by 0.7%, repair and maintenance (R & M) by 0.2%.
Looking at the annual change (i.e. compared with November 2014), construction output fell by 1.1%. “All new work” increased by 1.3% while R & M fell by 5.1%. The main upwards contribution to new work came from infrastructure which increased annually by 11.7%.
Comparing the 3 month period September to November 2015 with the previous 3 months, (June-August), construction output fell by 1.4%. “All new work” and R & M fell 1.4% and 1.2% respectively.
On an annual basis, comparing the 3 months (September to November2015) with the same 3 months in 2014, construction output fell slightly, by 0.1%. While “all new work” increased 2.4%, R & M work fell by 4.3%.
Even the politically sensitive new housing annual output fell by 2.4% year-on-year for this 3 month period, while housing R & M for the period saw no change – meaning that all housing-related construction output actually declined over the year.
ONS data on construction have been subject to some criticism in recent times, but the overall picture set out above would seem to indicate clearly that activity has been weak during the second half of 2015.