ONS figures show scale of construction’s recovery after toils of 2020

Monthly construction output is back above its pre-pandemic level for the first time, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Output rose 2% in December, matching the figure last achieved in February 2020 a few weeks before the country was ordered into a national lockdown by the prime minister in late March.

The ONS has previously said pre-pandemic output had been surpassed in April and November last year but late data brought the number for those months down to below the February 2020 figure.

london cranes

Source: Shutterstock

Construction output was up 12.7% across the whole of last year

Output as whole for construction was up 12.7% on 2020’s lockdown affected figure although the UK’s overall GDP actually fell by 0.2% in December, mainly due to Omicron restrictions.

Construction output in December was driven solely by new work, which increased 3.5%, while repair and maintenance work fell 0.7%.

Infrastructure new work and private new housing increased 8.5% and 3.1% respectively while the smaller sectors of private industrial new work and public new housing increased 9.1% and 7.4%.


New construction work output by sector

Quarterly construction output rose 1% in the final three months of 2021, compared with the previous quarter, with both new work and repair and maintenance increasing by 1% and 0.8% respectively.

But Scape chief executive Mark Robinson warned rising inflation threatened to put the brakes on the recovery, adding that firms needed to be paid on time.

He said: “Crucially, it’s important that payments are prompt and that any increased cost burden continues to be shared, rather than passed on to the supply chain.”

And McBains managing director Clive Docwra added: “It’s too soon to start hailing this as a long-term recovery, especially as the industry expects soaring electricity and gas prices will bite harder in the coming months as building products manufacturers pass on the costs of making bricks, steel, concrete and cement to construction firms.”

UK GDP last year showed growth of 7.5%, the fastest rate of growth since 1941. Output in 2020 had collapsed by 9.4%.