UK construction sees minor lift as trade deficit spikes

Oscar Lopez
House Building Boosted By Help To Buy Scheme And Overseas Investment
Construction in the UK has seen a slight lift but is in overall decline. (Source: Getty)

The UK’s construction output saw a minor lift of 0.5 per cent in April following three consecutive months of contraction, according to data released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, on a quarterly basis, construction in the UK continued its recent decline falling by 3.4 per cent in April 2018, the biggest fall since August 2012.

The ONS said that the decrease in construction output was driven by falls in both repair and maintenance and new work.

Read more: UK manufacturing output in sharpest fall since 2012

Rob Kent-Smith, head of national accounts at the ONS said: “While construction output saw a small bounceback in April after a poor start to the year, over the longer-term this sector continues to contract with significant falls across most types of work.”

Separately, the ONS data showed that UK manufacturing output saw the sharpest drop in nearly six years in April, while the country’s trade deficit has also increased sharply.

The UK’s trade deficit spiked to £5.3bn in April from £3.2bn in March driven by a 3.2 per cent plunge in exports of goods and services. Exports of aircraft, pharmaceuticals and machinery were also particularly weak in April.

Read more: UK construction growth remains subdued

Howard Archer chief economic adviser at the EY ITEM Club said: “A miserable and thoroughly worrying set of UK data that fan concerns over the UK economy.

“While March’s poor performance had clearly been influenced markedly by the severe weather, there are few mitigating factors for a slump in UK manufacturing output in April, a tepid rise in construction output and a sharply widened trade deficit as exports nosedived.”

The disappointing economic data saw the pound slip 0.35 per cent against the dollar to $1.3368.

Blane Perrotton, managing director of property consultancy Naismiths said: “The construction industry dashboard is now a sea of warning lights.

“For months, housebuilding had served as a ‘get out of jail’ card – mitigating or even nullifying the declines in other construction sectors. No longer.

“With the output from all sectors bar one now firmly in contraction territory, the fall in new orders suggests the slide is here to stay.”

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