So the construction output figures post a fall of 0.5% in the second quarter and recession in construction now looks more of a forgone conclusion than a fear.

The first point to note is that was not just the private housing sector that pulled the figures down.

But more worrying to me is that I am not convinced by the figures. I feel sure there will be plenty of industry experts left scratching their heads after reading the release.

I think these figures are far too optimistic in some areas and I suspect we may well see revisions downward, which means the industry is in worse shape than it looks on the basis of these latest stats.

This is not simply because the numbers for construction output plugged into the GBP figures showed a fall of 1.1% (having been revised down from 0.7%) in the second quarter, although that does help to support reasons for doubt.

No, my main concern centres on the figures posted for the repair, maintenance and improvement sector and more specifically the private housing RMI figures. These are on any scale extremely counterintuitive.

In fairness the repair maintenance and improvement figures are extremely tricky to get right. The level of non-recorded output and the awkward way the data has to be collected and manipulated makes it very difficult to get a true picture. And I am sure that the Decent Homes programme also adds to confusion.

But that said, the figures suggest that in the second quarter of this year output in private housing RMI rose sharply. I would put that in the category of as believable as the figures showing sharply increasing retail sales.

But more importantly, this is completely at variance with the figures from the people most likely to be carrying out the bulk of this work, the members of Federation of Master Builders. The FMB survey for the second quarter of 2008 showed the drop in private housing RMI work slowing, but still dropping fairly fast. There is of course a possibility that these firms are being squeezed out as bigger firms decide to take on smaller projects.

In general, the new work figures tend to be more reliable. They show a 3% fall in all work in the second quarter compared (on a seasonally adjusted basis) with the first three months of 2008, despite strong recorded performances from infrastructure and public non-infrastructure work.

The figures that I think are worth taking a good look at are those for private housing new build and private commercial work. Between them they accounted for more than a third of all recorded construction work last year.

Private housing work has dropped about 7% on the quarter and was down about 17% on the second quarter of 2007. However, the full force of the downturn in housing is to be seen in the numbers. So we can expect to see some savage drops. The NHBC starts figures are bleak, so we can expect the output in quarter three to be decidedly worse.

Perhaps more worrying is the sharp drop in private commercial output. This may be a blip, but the 4% drop in the second quarter is not a good sign. The sector generated 19% of all construction work last year, so is a big beast.

Meanwhile we were deprived of the employment figures, which are being reviewed. So we will have to wait until mid month for the Labour Market Statistics to get a view on how many jobs have been lost.

It is a shame that at a time when the statistics are of most use they would seem to be in the most disarray.