Happy New Year, or is it? The first piece of hard data on performance of the construction industry we get and it is a "new" record low for the Purchasing Managers' Index compiled for the buyers' body CIPS.

The overall PMI measure for construction in December came in at 29.3 against a no change mark of 50. That is a pretty gloomy level and well below the previous worst in November of 31.8.

The drops were widespread across the various sectors of the industry, with housing continuing to be the major drag, but with the pace of decline in both commercial and civils work breaking new records.

And orders fell at record pace too.

The outlook for jobs is particularly gloomy with December marking the seventh consecutive month of payroll cuts within the industry.

Truth told December is not a particularly representative month. But the continued decline in the index does point to a very gloomy start to 2009.

There was good news in that input deflation is easing cost pressures. But with a squeeze on throughout the entire supply chain it is likely that contractors' margins will take a huge bashing, with anecdotal evidence pointing to firms making losses on many contracts.

Meanwhile, for all the noise being generated by the government over its rather feeble job creation schemes, many of which feature construction, it would be a very brave person indeed who might suggest that 2009 will see a pick in construction prospects.