The recession in the construction industry eased in May, according to data from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply

An overall index figure of 45.9 indicated a fall in activity since April, but the rate of decline was the weakest in over a year. Any figure below 50 indicates a contraction in activity.

Roy Ayliffe, director at CIPS, said: “After appearing to be in freefall in February, we are starting to see the construction economy show some signs of life and steer itself back onto the road of recovery.”

But he added: “This data suggests that, while the sector may be out of the intensive care unit, it’s still some way from making a full return to health and there is always danger of a relapse.”

The housebuilding sector produced the most encouraging numbers, with a figure of 48.9.

Paul Smith, senior economist at Markit, said: “This augurs well for improvements in housebuilding and house price data.” 

Confidence among purchasing managers at construction firms jumped to a 21-month high of 72.6.

Smith said: “The underlying trends in the key demand and activity indices are now clearly upward and consistent with a much slower rate of industry contraction.”