In this month's Tracker, Experian Business Strategies reports on an unseasonably active December and predicts that growth in UK construction will stabilise over the next three months
December turned out to be a good month for contractors on a seasonally adjusted basis, with growth in activity accelerating according to the activity index, which rose four points to 59.

The orders index rose in December, whereas tender enquiries fell, reversing the trend in November.

Firms are optimistic about short-term employment prospects and tender price prospects over the next three to four months.

According to survey respondents, work-in-hand levels appear to have increased significantly in December compared with September, particularly in the civil engineering sector.

The fall in the CFR's Leading Construction Activity Indicator, which provides a short-term forecast of activity levels in construction, has finally stabilised with the index expected to remain at 54 for the three months to April.

The indicator continues to show growth in levels of construction workload as it has done since October 2000.

Data on new work in November was published by the Department of Trade and Industry in mid-January and shows that for the first 11 months of 2003 orders were down 2% on the corresponding period of 2002 in constant prices. This suggests that without a very strong December, the outturn for the year as a whole is likely to be slightly down on that for 2002.

Firms working in residential seem to have the longest order books at present, with 31% having more then six months of work in hand.

The survey is conducted monthly among some 800 firms throughout the United Kingdom and the analysis is broken down by size of firm, sector of the industry and region. The results are weighted to reflect the size of respondents. In addition to the results published in this extract, all of the monthly topics are available by sector, region and size of firm. In addition quarterly questions seek information on materials costs, labour costs and work in hand.