The impact of the recession on the construction industry eased in April, although the sector continued to contract sharply, a survey this week showed

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply’s (CIPS) construction index rose to 38.1 in April from 30.9 in March. The figure is the highest in eight months, but well below the neutral mark of 50, which separates growth from contraction.

The measure is made up of five indicators, including new orders and output.

The institute said the improvement was sharpest in the civil engineering sector, but that the housing and commercial sub-sectors also experienced decelerating falls in output. Housing was the worst-performing area.

Roy Ayliffe, the director of CIPS, said blue skies were still “a fair way off”, given the backdrop of fewer new orders and fierce competition for what work there was.

Simon Rubinsohn, the RICS’ chief economist, said: “The results of this survey, allied to some signs of a gentle pick-up in activity in the housing market, give hope that the industry may begin to stabilise in the early part of 2010.” However, construction output is still likely to post a double digit decline in 2009, he said.