But yet another month of steep price increases

A good month for civils construction in April drove the sharpest rise in overall sector activity so far this year, according to the latest Markit/CIPS survey of purchasing managers.

The headline index hit 53.1 for the month, up from 52.2 in March, helped by faster rises in civil engineering and residential building activity.

The April data also pointed to the strongest upturn in new work so far this year and an improvement in client demand.

However, robust demand and upward pressure on costs resulted in another steep increase in materials prices over the month.

Commenting on the data, Max Jones, director for construction at Lloyds Bank, said: “As these figures reflect, the sector is currently in relatively confident mood with the next few weeks of uncertainty leading up to the general election seen by many as a reasonable trade-off given it will result in a government in place until 2022.”

Meanwhile, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association’s (CECA) latest trade survey pointed to a more complex picture for civils firms over the first quarter of this year.

While workloads increased, with 8% more civils firms reporting a rise on balance rather than a fall for the first three months of the year, order books decreased, with 9% on balance reporting a dip in orders.

Costs also increased for 84% of British firms on balance, compared to a year ago.

Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs at CECA, warned: “Failure to act could undermine the sector’s ability to recover. This will imperil the British economy at the very time we need this key driver of economic growth to secure the future of the UK.”