Increases in roads, schools and hospitals fail to offset downturn in housing and industrial work, show government statistics

Construction orders slumped 8% slump in the first quarter of 2008, compared with both the previous quarter and the same quarter a year earlier, despite strong activity in infrastructure and public non-housing.

The fall was identified in the Office for National Statistics' latest report on new construction orders in the year to March 2008. However, orders over the year as a whole remained unchanged on the previous 12 months.

According to the report, private housing orders fell by 13% over the year, while public housing slipped 11%. Public housing orders were down 27% on the previous quarter and 36% on the same quarter a year earlier.

Although private commercial activity for the year was 2% up on the previous 12 months, orders in the first quarter of 2008 were 15% down on the previous quarter.

Industrial orders were down over the year, falling 13% compared with the previous year.

However, orders for infrastructure, both public and private, rose. A glut of roadbuilding pushed first-quarter orders up 24% from the previous quarter and 17% up year on year.

Education and health work had a similar impact on public non-housing orders, pushing them up 15% for the year to March 2008 compared with the previous year.