Chatting to my good friend Martin Hewes about his latest regional forecasts he raised a point I had not really thought about that much before – the value of new orders for education work let over the past two years was twice the value for offices.
In some regions the spending on education building makes the office sector look a bit like a side show.
Great for those that specialise in educational building – well at least for the time being. But this represents a real worry if we look at how the fortunes of construction will be affected by the public sector cuts.
To put the figures in perspective, education orders currently account nationally for more than 20% of all new orders – that is to say all construction work excluding repair, maintenance and improvement.
That is more than the new orders for shops and offices put together.
The graph sourced from ONS data on orders shows just how important education has become for construction in relation to both shops and offices.
But the importance of education-related work to construction is not evenly spread across the regions.
In London, for instance, new orders for office building amount to more by some margin than the orders for education-related building.
But in the West Midlands for instance, almost 30% of orders secured for new construction work over 2010 was education based.
And in Yorkshire and Humberside there was twice as much work let for educational work than there was for shops or offices put together over the past two years.
The picture is clear. Cuts in educational work will hit construction hard and hardest in the northern regions.
Put another way, if orders on education-related construction drop by a half with the cuts – not an unreasonable assumption – the orders for offices would have to double from where they are to make up for the loss, all other things being equal.