The latest construction output figures seem to confirm the need to be cautious over divining too much from one month’s data.

The figures suggest that less work was done in January than in December, despite the shutdown of sites across the country due to heavy snow late last year.

What’s more they are not that much better than the figures for January last year, which was also hit by bad weather.

If the data provide an accurate representation of what is happening in the industry they are very worrying indeed. Where we would have expected a bounce in January as firms caught up on delayed work we appear to have a drop.

The most likely explanation is that there is a lag effect. That is to say the figures filled in for January in part represent what happened in December. And this is highly likely if the data used by responding firms was based on invoices sent in the month.

So, while the figures as they stand present every reason to be very gloomy indeed, in that they point to a significant drop over recent months, I would suggest waiting until February to get clearer view of what might be going on.

That said it may be that the decline in output is rather faster than we might have expected.