On the face of it things look fairly steady in construction land. Thanks to a strong showing from publicly-funded work and a timely rise in private non-housing repair and maintenance, construction output remained steady in the first quarter of 2008, despite falls in private housing and commercial work.

It is no surprise that private housing work dropped more than 5% over the quarter and stands about 15% below its peak last year. Some of the slack is being taken up by social housing, but the sector starts from a very low base. All this is in line with expectations.

But dig a bit more and overall the figures are far from encouraging, especially as the quarter showed a slowdown in the giant commercial sector, which had been racing ahead up to the credit crunch. Growth came to an abrupt halt in the first quarter of this year with a slight decline recorded in the official figures.

With private housing and private commercial representing about a third of construction, a continued slide in both would almost inevitably result in recession for construction this year.

Add to this the probably fall in private housing RMI, as household budgets are squeezed, and things start to look even bleaker. This sector together with private housing and commercial makes up almost half the industry's total workload.

All of this slowing down at once poses the question of where work will come to fill the gap - and there appears to be no answer to that. And if the Government gets tough with spending things could look even worse.

It's rather silly to make too many predictions based on a single quarter's figures, but sticking my neck out my best guess - based on the limited data and a gut feel - is that construction as an industry should brace for recession this year.

The graph attached (see below) gives a reasonable view of how things are panning out for the three big sectors mentioned.

And I would be very interested to hear your views of how things look on the ground.

Construction output 2008 Q1