Weather freezes construction activity
The latest IHS Markit/CIPS Construction PMI® data has been released, which has blown a chill across construction hopes.
Following six months in growth, above the 50.0 no change threshold, the statistics show the sharpest drop in construction activity since July 2016, going from 51.4 in February to 47.0 in March.
Survey respondents attributed the fall in fortunes to unusually bad weather, which saw snow fall across the country disrupting construction sites. Spring usually sees construction activity begin to pick up pace as the weather turns better, however the heavy snow has had an adverse effect, particularly at civil engineering projects, with civil engineering work declining at sharpest pace for five years.
Peter Vinden, managing Director of The Vinden Partnership, said: “March has seen a cold wind blow across construction, when we expect to see new shoots of growth, leading to a halt in activity. It has been a while since we have seen such bad weather in early Spring and this has certainly affected production.
“However, with employment and business confidence still showing hope, we can look forward to a better summer of activity.
“The figures this month will hopefully be a blip on an otherwise strong summer which will look to residential and infrastructure works to bolster the sector.”
Duncan Brock, Group Director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: “Snow stopped play in March, as the unseasonal weather restricted overall activity, lengthened delivery times and triggered the fastest drop in new orders since July 2016.
“Civil engineering and commercial activity were the most affected, as housing became the best performer. However, the marginal improvement in residential building was softer than in most of 2017 indicating there may be something more serious failing the sector, as respondents also cited continuing Brexit-related uncertainty and disappointment over the performance of the UK economy.
“It’s a few years since the UK experienced such bad weather in March and it’s obvious that supply chains were woefully unprepared to deal with the disruption. So though March’s figures could be viewed as a temporary blip, without a strong pipeline of work, and strong risk strategies in place, the sector’s health remains in question as we’re still a long way off seeing it operate the way it has over the last year.”