Storms hit construction output but long-term recovery continues

February’s storms led to a dip in construction activity, but the industry’s long-term recovery in output amid the pandemic continues apace.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 0.1 per cent decrease in construction output for February compared with the previous month. The ONS attributed the minor decline to weather-related disruption across the UK in the last two weeks of February.

Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, which caused disruption that was untypical for the time of year, prompted the closure of construction sites and delayed progress on projects. Despite this, output remained 6.1 per cent higher than the equivalent period last year. It was also 1.1 per cent above the rate recorded pre-pandemic in February 2020.

The quarterly trend also continued to show a climb in output (2.4 per cent), with the three months to the end of February showing the strongest three-month growth since June 2021.

Beard Construction finance director Fraser Johns said the long-term signs of recovery demonstrated “the resilience of the sector”.

In terms of sector-specific work, even though monthly output for infrastructure fell by 2.5 per cent in February, the level of work in infrastructure was 25.6 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic level.

Output for repairs and maintenance fell by 0.5 per cent in February. Construction advisory firm RSM UK’s partner and national head of construction, Kelly Boorman, said the decline highlighted the impact of the pandemic on hybrid and remote working, as well as the increase in prices, with businesses rethinking their investment in commercial property.

The largest fall tracked post-pandemic is in private commercial work, which is 27.8 per cent lower than two years ago.

Gareth Belsham, director of national property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, said the latest data painted a picture of the industry “on the eve of war”, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. Since then, the industry has seen the impact of the ongoing conflict along the global supply chain.

“Construction is highly reliant on global supply chains for building materials, and the imposition of tough sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine is now disrupting the supply of key materials, including steel and timber,” Belsham said.

Last week, the Construction Leadership Council said material suppliers were issuing quotes that were valid for only 24 hours, as fears of inflation rattled the industry. This was attributed to both the Russian invasion and the pandemic.

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