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Construction Trade Survey reports activity growth in Q1 2015

Eighth successive quarterly growth shown from survey put together by CPA.

The latest Construction Trade Survey has shown firms reporting continued growth in activity for the first quarter of 2015. 

This ‘encouraging’ growth is the eighth consecutive quarter in which the survey has reported an increase in activity, with large contractors, SMEs, specialist contractors, civil engineers and manufacturers all seeing a rise in workloads, outputs or sales in the last quarter. 

At eight consecutive quarters of growth in the industry, this is now the longest period of expansion since the recession. 

Compiled by the Construction Products Association (CPA), the report is made up of data from surveys answered by members of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), National Federation of Builders (NFB), the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC), and the UK Contractors Group (UKCG). 

In terms of the best rises in activity, commercial and infrastructure, and private housing were the best performing, with further expansion expected for the rest of the year. 

Outputs and workloads increased in Q1 2015 across the supply chain according to SMEs, civil engineers and building contractors. 

Encouragingly, 50% of respondents reported better output, on balance, when compared to this time last year. 

This figure is 6% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2014, while SMEs also saw a slight increase in workloads from Q1 2015. 

Manufacturers in both the heavy and light side of the industry also saw an annual rise in sales from the results reported in Q1 with 50% heavy side product manufacturers and 29% on the light side enjoying rises. 

The private sector has driven increased growth, with the survey showing housing output increased in the first quarter of the year according to 54% of building contractors, on balance, while 9% of contractors saw a rise in orders for private housing. 

In addition, 23% of building contractors reported an increase in private commercial output in comparison to Q1 2014. The private commercial sector performed well too, with orders increasing on balance, according to 25% of contractors. 

Dr Noble Francis is the Economics Director at CPA and he alluded to the private sector’s performance while saying he expected ‘momentum to continue’.

He said: “Activity rose in the first quarter of 2015 compared to a year earlier according to 50% of contractors, on balance. 

“Furthermore, increases in orders and enquiries indicate that the construction industry’s longest expansionary streak in six years is set to continue over the next 12 months. 

“Increased activity was led by the private housing sector, in which 54% of firms, on balance, reported a rise in output. Increased output was also reported in private commercial, the largest construction sector, where 23% of firms, on balance, reported rising volumes of offices and retail work.

“This momentum is set to continue, as it was in the private housing and commercial sectors that contractors registered growth in order books in Q1. Specialist contractors and SMEs also reported a noticeable upturn in new enquiries in the quarter.”

The results of the General Election may have been a surprise to most observers but Stephen Ratcliffe, Director of UKCG, hopes the margin of victory means work pipelines are benefit from as little disruption as possible. 

He also believes skills shortages need to be tackled, adding: “The continued growth in construction reported by the latest survey is encouraging, and hopefully the clear General Election result will help minimise any impact on work pipelines. 

“Rising costs continue to reflect skills shortages, and the need to focus on recruiting and training new people into the industry.”