ONS figures reveal largest drop took place in commercial and private housing sectors

Construction orders have fallen by £17bn since the start of the recession, according to figures released today.

The Office of National Statistics report said that orders fell by a third between 2007 (£50.6bn) and 2009 (£33.6bn).

The largest falls took place in the commercial and private housing sectors, where the value of orders fell by 60% to £5.4bn and £6.9bn respectively.

Public sector investment saw infrastructure orders rise 50% to £8.4bn over the same period.

Construction economist Brian Green said that without the support of the public sector the drop would have been far more severe.

He said: “Over that period the public sector has sought to swell orders, either directly or through PFI-style funding.”

Private housing orders for the last three months of December 2009 suggest housebuilders may be over the worse of the recession, with orders rising by 24% to £1.5bn.

Total construction orders in the fourth quarter were £7.842bn, a 4.4% increase on the same period in 2008.

This total is still 25% lower than the £10.515bn value of orders in the last three months of 2007.