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December construction growth second fastest in over six years

UK construction has seen its second-fastest month of growth in more than six years, according to a Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply report published today.

The latest Markit/CIPS Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index, which surveys purchasing executives in more than 170 construction companies, showed that despite dipping slightly from 62.6 in November to 62.1, December was still the second-fastest month of growth after November’s reading marked the highest rate since August 2007.

Housebuilding led the upturn and, despite growth slowing slightly in November, the sector’s growth rate during Q4 2013 was the highest for 10 years.

In the same period last year, housing activity dropped at the fastest rate for two years.

Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said: “Historical comparisons with official data suggest the PMI Housing Activity Index is signalling a rise of 40,000 in the number of homes being built in the fourth quarter, up sharply from the post-crisis low of just over 28,000 seen at the end of last year.

“By comparison, housebuilding averaged more than 55,000 per quarter in the four years prior to the onset of the financial crisis.”

Commercial and civil engineering were strong sectors also driving the construction surge in 2013.

Mr Williamson said: “Rising civil engineering activity pointed to growing infrastructure spending and, like the increase in commercial activity, provides welcome news on the increasingly broad-based nature of the economic upturn.”

The survey also showed that nearly 60 per cent of UK construction companies expected the sector to grow in 2014, with just 10 per cent predicting it to decline.

Construction companies noted that greater confidence and improved business conditions had resulted in clients spending more during December.

Positive growth in construction saw a surge in hiring, which has been a concern for industry in recent months.

Mr Williamson added that the data showed at least 30,000 jobs had been created in the fourth quarter of 2014.

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