The third-quarter survey showed that 55% of London-based contractors experienced a drop in workload rather than a rise over the quarter. In the North, 49% of contractors recorded a rise in workload, rather than a fall.
In the previous quarter, 53% of London contractors recorded a rise rather than a fall and 24% of contractors in the North recorded a rise rather than a fall.
Chris Nicholls, economist at the Construction Confederation, put the results down to a traditionally volatile London market, the drying-up of millennium projects, and a recovery in manufacturing – particularly in the North-east.
Overall, construction output rose in the third quarter for the 14th time in succession, with 14% more construction firms reporting an increase than a drop-off.
New enquiry levels were up too, with 22% more companies reporting greater interest than reporting less.
However, figures for tendering success slipped for the first time in three years. In all, 2% more firms reported a fall in tender successes than reported a rise. This contributed to a reduction in the overall number of companies expecting output to grow next year.
Another factor that tempered the outlook was the recent rise in interest rates, which Nicholls said had added to the uncertain economic climate.
The commercial and private new housing sectors remained the most buoyant in terms of output during the third quarter, but output for both sectors looks set to grow more slowly next year.
Enquiries for new public housing fell dramatically during the third quarter; the industry is still waiting for a positive impact on workload from the government's initiative to release capital receipts.
In infrastructure work, hopes for a recovery were dashed by a fall in output and enquiries, and a setback in output for the coming year. Sir Martin Laing, president of the Construction Confederation, said increased spend on rail maintenance was the most likely area of growth for infrastructure companies.
Civil engineers also reported lower profit margins than their building counterparts.