Two of construction’s leading forecasters have revised upwards their workload forecasts for the next two years.

Construction Forecasting and Research has raised its expectations for growth in 1999 from 1.3% to 2.4%, and from 2.2% to 2.6% for 2000.

Hewes Associates, which takes a gloomier view of the sector, has decided that the rate of decline in output will be 1.5%, rather than the 2% it predicted last quarter.

CFR upped its forecast because the private housing sector performed better than expected in the first two months of 1999 after its weak showing at the end of 1998. The forecaster says first-time buyers are continuing to enter the market, attracted by low interest rates.

CFR has increased its forecast for 2000 partly thanks to a brighter outlook for infrastructure, particularly in the water sector.

Hewes’ mood has brightened because it says the general economic outlook is sunnier. It attributes this to the fact that “the severe weakening in confidence inspired by the Asian and Russian financial crises has now blown over”.

“However, the fact remains that the economy has slowed significantly, and for commercial and private housing, this is expected to be enough to result in declining building programmes,” it continues.

The two reports add to general confusion about the state of the market, with the DETR’s latest statistics showing a 26% collapse in orders. This figure has been blamed on a new calculating system, but there is anecdotal evidence that orders did fall sharply from November to February.