In the latest monthly figures – for November – we find an industry in a state of flux, with results continuing to vary month on month
As predicted, the results in the final quarter of 2002 are proving to be somewhat unstable. The latest figures, for November, show that the balances for activity levels and tender enquiries worsened, whereas those for order books, tender prices and short-term employment prospects improved.

Looking at the broader picture, the balance for tender enquiries and order books remained negative and those for employment and tender prices stayed positive. The percentage of firms reporting an increase in activity levels was the same as that reporting a decrease, producing a balance of zero.

The number of regions displaying positive balances in November remained low for tender enquiries (one) and order books (four). In the case of employment, however, eight regions reported positive balances, up from five in October. The highest balances for activity and tender enquiries were found in Wales and those for order books and employment were in Scotland.

The latest quarterly figures from the DTI – provisional figures for 3Q02 – reveal a quarter-on-quarter rise in output of nearly 2% in real terms. And CFR's latest estimate for the year as a whole suggests growth of more than 7%.

Surprisingly, then – considering the strength of growth in the industry – the majority of firms reported rises in materials costs of just 2.6-5% over the past year. This has changed little from the last time a question on materials costs was included in the survey in August.

This an extract from the monthly Focus survey of construction activity undertaken by Construction Forecasting and Research on behalf of the European Commission as part of its suite of harmonised EU business surveys. The full survey results and further information on CFR’s forecasts and services can be obtained from CFR by phoning 020-7808 7070 or logging on to www.constructionfutures.co.uk.