November figures set new low of under £2bn with infrastructure hardest hit

Monthly construction orders fell to the lowest since records began according to the latest government figures.

The Office of National Statistics figures show that total construction orders, adjusted for inflation, fell below £2bn in November for the first time since monthly records began in January 1983.

It found £1.8bn of orders were placed in November 2008, down 39% on the same month in 2007, with figures at year 2000 prices adjusted for inflation.

The figures also show another sharp fall since October of 14%, mainly on collapsing commercial development orders, down 35% over the month to £518. Private housing orders continued to bump along the bottom, with just £277m of business, compared to £733m in the same month in 2007 - a fall of 63%.

Worryingly infrastructure orders also fell in the month, and now sit 48% lower in the last three months than in the previous three.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said the data highlighted the intense pressure now on the construction sector. He said: “Housing has until now been a key driver of the downturn but the latest release highlights the increasingly gloomy picture regarding infrastructure which has, until now, been viewed as one of the more protected areas of the construction industry. Ominously, difficulties now appear to be emerging in the financing of various PFI projects.”

“Against this backdrop, further steps are urgently needed to help support the sector,” he added.

The full data can be seen at: Construction statistics