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ONS revises construction output fall to 4pc

Construction output dropped by 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 rather than the 4.7 per cent suggested little more than a fortnight ago, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Releasing a full breakdown following the headline figure given in April, the ONS said the original figure was based on limited responses from businesses and would result in GDP being revised up by less than 0.1 per cent.

It said output was up 3.6 per cent compared with the same period in 2010. All new work fell by 5.1 per cent compared with the previous quarter – but was up by 4.3 per cent on the year before.

The ONS also dismissed industry concerns that figures were distorted after the monthly new orders survey became quarterlyand the quarterly output survey became monthly.

Siobhan Carey, deputy director of the economic surveys division of the ONS, said: “We routinely evaluate the performance of all our outputs, and have no reason at present to believe the construction series is giving a distorted picture of what is going on in the sector.

“The new surveys introduced last year were a major improvement on what went before. We have no evidence of a change in the way respondents complete returns. We will consider the need to make adjustments and improvements to the methodology, should this prove necessary.”

But Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: “Despite the revision, the plunge in activity is still huge and would be worrying if it were not completely at odds with most other evidence relating to the sector.

“The Purchasing Managers’ Survey has painted a far more upbeat story for the sector so far this year, showing a reasonable rebound in growth in the first quarter, which is consistent with other related indicators and evidence from the major builders.

The Construction Products Association also reported a slight quarter-on-quarter increase in construction output for Q1 2011 in its latest State of Trade survey.

ONS Breakdown for Q1 2011:

  • New private housing – down 9.1 per cent on previous quarter; up 10.3 per cent on Q1 2010
  • New public housing – down 5.8 per cent on previous quarter; up 17 per cent on Q1 2010
  • New public and private infrastructure – up 4.5 per cent up on previous quarter; up 0.8 per cent on Q1 2010
  • New public non-housing – down 2.7 per cent on previous quarter; up 9 per cent on Q1 2010
  • New construction in private industrial – down 1.7 per cent on previous quarter; up 11.8 per cent on Q1 2010
  • New construction in private commercial – down 9.2 per cent on previous quarter; down 2.7 per cent on Q1 2010
  • Housing repair/maintenance public – down 6.7 per cent on previous quarter; down 13.7 per cent on Q1 2010
  • Housing repair/maintenance private – down 6.7 per cent on p[revious quarter; up 6.5 per cent on Q1 2010
  • Repair and maintenance (non housing) – up 3 per cent on previous quarter; up 6.1 per cent on Q1 2010

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