The latest construction survey from the surveyors’ body RICS adds more weight to the forecasts that the industry is tipping into recession.
The figures show that while 19% of firms increased work in the third quarter of this year 20% saw workloads fall, providing a net balance of -1%.
Basically that’s flat and on the RICS measure the industry has been pretty much hovering between a rise and a fall for the best part of two years since it pulled itself out of the tailspin it dived into in 2008.
A sector and regional breakdown makes plain that the driver of any growth remains private commercial in London and the South East.
What should concern the industry more than the slight downturn measured in workload is the sharp fall in confidence about the future.
Expectations of workloads and employment have both shifted markedly from being modestly positive to being pretty negative. Expectations of profits are even more pessimistic.
One particularly unsettling graph provided by the survey suggests that input costs have increased markedly while output costs have dropped. This will put a squeeze on already tight margins.
This is consistent with a weakening market pointing to the inability of firms to raise prices.
A more disturbing possibility is that it might be an early sign of the more desperate firms cutting prices to win work.
Either way this does not comfortable reading.