It was with genuine shock that I looked at the latest output figures. I was busy finishing something off when Noble Francis of the Construction Products Association called to ask if I'd seen the figures.

I thought he was pulling my chain when he read over the numbers.

I'm regarded as gloomy, but I have been well and truly trumped if these figures remain unrevised.

Output down 9.2% on the quarter and 16.5% on the same period a year ago.

That's a spectacular collapse even given construction's volatile nature.

The main cause appears to be the sudden breaks slammed on the commercial sector at a time when the wheels were already locked on house building.

Every sector appears to be taking a beating but the big commercial and house building sectors have caused the most damage.

Even the much talked of public spending on non-residential building appears to have suffered in the first quarter, down 3%. Although the figures show output up 7.5% on a year ago.

Infrastructure saw some growth in the first quarter but workload is down 4.6% on a year ago.

And those two sectors are the good news.

In essence this represent the biggest quarterly fall recorded outside of the spectacular shutdown in workload caused by the dreadful winter snows in early 1963.

And the 16.5% year or year fall is the biggest recorded - that is back to the mid 1950s.

What is more shocking is that the figures for construction's element of GDP showed a more modest 2.4% fall in the first quarter and an 8.6% annual decline.

These seemed to me at the time rather modest, although it must be stressed that they are not necessarily measuring the same thing as the official construction output figures. They can and do vary, but this is rather of a different scale and creates cause for some questioning.

Given the massive gap, we can read the implications two ways. Either the GDP figures for construction are grossly out and will be revised downward. This would, given the size of construction, imply that GDP dropped more than 1.9% in the first quarter. That will spook a few horses in the economist stable.

Alternatively, the figures we see today are overplaying the fall in construction and will be revised upward.

The likelihood is a bit of both.

This may offer some crumbs of comfort.

And on the subject of crumbs of comfort, we might hope that the spectacular decline in output in the first quarter is largely due to what might (given a wide licence) be described as "destocking" effects.

A shuddering stop as the breaks are applied, that leads to a modest lift later down the line.

A third crumb is that we did have a nasty cold snap in the period which may make these figures appear worse than what might be regarded as the underlying trend.

But the point is that without those crumbs fully factored in, the already bleak industry forecasts begin to look woefully optimistic.

We would be heading for the worst ever recorded construction recession.

Now I like records, but that is one we could live without.