Private industrial construction orders recovered during the final quarter of 1999, according to figures from the DETR.

The figures show that, despite gloomy forecasts for the manufacturing sector, orders for the last three months of 1999 were 17% up on the previous quarter and 1% up on the same period a year ago.

Overall, new orders were 1% higher than in the third quarter, but down 9% on the same period last year. Orders rose 8% between November and December.

Public housing was the strongest-performing sector during the third quarter of 1999. A number of large contracts pushed orders up 37% on the previous quarter and 47% up on the same period in 1998.

Private housing orders were also strong, helped by the housing boom in the South-east. They were up 42% on the same period in 1998; orders for December were up 16%.

But the story was not so good in private commercial work. Orders were down 18% in the fourth quarter compared with the same period a year earlier – possible early evidence that the boom in office work is beginning to slow.

And infrastructure work such as roadbuilding continues to suffer. Orders for new work in the fourth quarter were down 19% on the fourth quarter of 1998. They were also down 16% on the third quarter.

  • Full analysis of the latest orders in a new monthly economic section starting next week. Called Building intelligence and also including regional, housing and output data, it will be compiled by Construction Forecasting and Research.