For the first time in two years, builders in all parts of the UK are expecting output to grow over the next 12 months, the Construction Confederation’s quarterly survey has found.

The balance of companies expecting higher workloads rose from 33% in the previous quarter to 54%. The confederation said this was the first time since 1998 that all regions had reported positive prospects.

The bright outlook was echoed by results for the last three months of 1999. Output rose for the 15th consecutive quarter, with 18% more firms reporting a rise than a fall, compared with 14% in the third quarter.

Tender success also rose, with 20% more firms reporting a rise than a fall. But the balance of firms reporting an increase in new enquiries fell slightly from 22% to 19%. Housebuilders recorded the biggest rise in workloads, with a balance of 25% reporting an increase in the fourth quarter.

Private commercial held up, too, with a balance of 14% reporting a rise.

But companies working in the manufacturing sector continued to see output fall, albeit at a slower rate. And civil engineering firms continue to suffer, with 23% more firms reporting a fall in work than reporting a rise.