British building sector picks up after the December freeze

 
Julian Harris
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BRITISH construction bounced back in January, after a snow-hit slump in December, according to data released yesterday.

The sector’s performance exceeded the forecasts of economists, by jumping to 53.7 in the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) conducted by Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS).

In December the industry had recorded 49.1, indicating a contraction. All figures above 50 signal economic growth.

“An improvement in weather conditions at the start of the year helped to boost construction work, while there were also gains in new business,” the report said.

New orders increased to 52.5, its fastest rate of growth since July last year.

“Today’s figures point to a solid, if not spectacular, improvement in construction activity, perhaps not surprising following the weather disruption last month,” concluded Francois Cabau of Barclays Capital.

However, employment was still down in construction, at 47.5, although the rate of decline was slower than in the previous four months.

Input costs faced by construction companies rose at the fastest rate since May 2010, driven up by inflation in raw material prices.