The latest set of figures from the buyers’ body CIPS shows that construction remains mired in recession and the general pattern painted by the numbers provides little scope for optimism.

The level of incoming orders fell for the third month in a row, says the report. And this will be from a low base.

It all rather poses the question: where to from here?

It is perhaps ironic, given the figures, that the survey shows expectations for activity over the next 12 months continuing to grow. I’d not read too much into this, the survey does seem to have a significant optimism bias as we have seen before.

House building came out once again as the only sector in positive territory (that is to say it recorded more than 50 on the 100 point index) and so is growing.

Civils performed worst, while the commercial sector was still seen to be in recession, but experiencing a slower rate of decline than in recent months.

One of the more ugly figures was that for employment, which suggests that firms are shedding labour at a faster rate. Although the survey commentary does say it has some anecdotal evidence to suggest this may in part be down to a subtle shift in workloads towards less labour intensive contracts.

When we look at the graph, it is sobering to wonder which way it will go from here. After almost a year of relatively gentle decline, will the pace of collapse accelerate, or will we finally see a recovery?

The hot money is on the former, simply on the grounds that the pace of recovery in the private sector is just too modest to sustain the onslaught the industry faces when the public funded work starts to dwindle.

Still we live in hope and it seems there is quite a bit of that among the CIPS membership.