The buyers’ body CIPS has released its first construction statistics of the New Year and they show the industry continuing to decline in December.

The construction index finished the year on 47.1, below the 50 no-change mark for the 22nd consecutive month.

But there was some good news. The housing index remained positive for the fourth month running and growth appears to be strengthening.

Meanwhile optimism among purchasing managers about future activity rose slightly. But as the graph shows the optimism index must be treated with a bit of caution as it tends to rather overstate the upside and through the whole of this recession has dropped into negative territory in just two months.

The overall picture we get from the graph opposite remains one of a continuing grinding recession, with a limited improvement in house building activity.

Although, it's probably unwise to read too much into one month's data at this time of year, with the effects of Christmas, Christmas parties, huge economic uncertainty, an impending General Election and a particularly severe winter, which will impact on output.

However, one of the more worrying features of the latest CIPS data probably worth mentioning is the weakening index for commercial work. This was picked up in a note by Kelvin Davidson, property economist at Capital Economics. He sees it as evidence to support the view that commercial property activity will remain weak this year, held back by a lack of finance and lingering uncertainty over the economy.