Construction output increased by almost 2.5% in May, according to latest ONS figures

Tower cores with cranes

Source: Shutterstock / IR Stone

After a poor start to the year construction output showed signs of recovery in May, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Output across the construction sector grew by 2.9% month-on-month in May, a significant improvement on April where no growth was recorded.

The month-on-month growth in construction output was in part driven by the recovery of private housing repair and maintenance work, which grew 7.3% in May following a weak start to the year.

Despite this uptick in output, the three-month on three-month series continued its recent decline, falling by 1.7% in May, representing the third consecutive decline in this series.

This drop output was driven, in part, by a fall in new work, which also fell for the third consecutive month, decreasing by 2.5%. The three month series also includes March, when output was significantly affected by the poor weather brought by the 'Beast from the East'.

Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape Group, said while the level of output over the past three months was disappointing, it was clear things had started to turn around in May.

He said: "It is particularly promising to see that total new work increased by £13.7bn over the past month alone, including significant contributions from infrastructure, as well as strong housebuilding. 

"The government should not become distracted by Brexit and must continue with the business of building; committing to invest in our road and rail links will improve connectivity between cities and help them to flourish. Clarity and consistency on Brexit is essential to keep the construction industry and the wider economy moving in the right direction.”

Rebecca Larkin, senior economist at the Construction Products Association, said: “The construction industry appears to have caught up with some of the work lost in February and March due to the freezing ground conditions and snow disruption.

"Month-on-month gains were evident across all sectors, but were strongest in private housing repairs, maintenance and improvement, the third largest construction sector, due to warmer weather and longer days.   

“Private housing new build was 8.4% higher than a year earlier, which points to strength in activity beyond basic catch-up as the industry enters the busier spring and summer selling season."