November saw largest monthly jump in construction work since March last year as materials shortages ease

Construction output in November was at the highest level since September 2019 as an easing of material shortages and unseasonably mild and dry weather put boosters under the sector.

November’s 3.5% rise was the largest monthly increase since March 2021, and 1.3% above the level seen in February 2020 just before the onset of the first covid lockdown.

Compared with October 2021, output in November was up by £496m with eight out of nine sectors seeing a month-on-month increase, according to new ONS figures.

They showed that a 5.7% jump in new work compared with October was solely responsible for the monthly increase, as repair and maintenance saw a small dip of 0.2%.

construction site (2)

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Unseasonably dry and mild weather in November and an easing of material shortages saw output jump by 3.5% compared to October

But compared with February 2020, new work was still 1.6% below pre-pandemic levels while repair and maintenance was nearly 7% higher.

Performance of different sectors compared with February 2020 was mixed, with infrastructure being some 49.3% above while the private commercial sector was still struggling, at 28% below despite the easing of covid restrictions last autumn.

New work in infrastructure compared with October was up by 11.4% (£286m), the strongest growth for the sector since May 2020, with the ONS saying anecdotal evidence pointed to a strong contribution from renewable energy projects and road and rail schemes.

Private housing new work was up by 5.5% (£160m) month-on-month, although private housing repair and maintenance dropped by 2.4% (£49m).

The figures reflect general improvements in supply chain bottlenecks for construction materials following the peak of the delays last summer.

The number of businesses which reported having to change suppliers or that were unable to source materials, good or services dropped from 35% in late October compared with 26% in November.

Meanwhile, the number of firms reporting no disruptions to procurement within the UK was up by 5% in November.

The Construction Leadership Council said in late November that the availability of construction products had improved in most UK regions.

But it warned that UK manufacturers were at full production capacity, while issues still remained with the supply of bricks, blocks and roofing products including timber battens and concrete roof tiles.

The wider economy in November surpassed pre-covid levels for the first time after GDP rose by 0.9% in the month, higher than the 0.4% predicted by economists.