The recession has ripped away from construction roughly £17 billion in annual new orders, despite £ billions more public sector sponsored work.

That’s the clear message to me from the annual tot up of the new orders won by contractors released today.

Forget the niceties of which sector is doing how well and you are faced with the grim picture of an industry in near freefall.

In 2007 new orders in cash terms came to £50.6 billion. The figure for 2009 has been put at £33.6 billion.

That is a drop of a third.

But without the support of the public sector the drop would have been far more severe as over that period the public sector has sought to swell orders, either directly or through PFI-style funding.  

Private housing, private commercial and private industrial orders in cash terms are running at about 40% of the level they were at peak.

Naturally the picture doesn’t look so bad if you look at the constant price volume figures.

But that just tells the other side of the story, construction having to do more work for less cash.