Construction boom adds to growth hopes

Tim Wallace
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UK CONSTRUCTION sector activity expanded sharply in March as unusually mild weather boosted building orders, data revealed yesterday, raising hopes that Britain avoided a second consecutive quarter of economic contraction.

The sector has grown in every month since January 2011, according to Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI).

In March the figure hit 56.7, indicating a sharp acceleration in growth from February’s 54.3 and taking the index well above its “no change” level of 50.

Commercial construction experienced the most growth in the month and the civil engineering sector expanded at its fastest pace since March 2011.

However, residential construction expanded only slowly.

Overall new business has been expanding steadily for six months, and the jump in orders in March was the sharpest rise since September 2007, leading to a small uptick in employment.

“The good weather appears to have led to a surge in demand for construction projects in March, adding to the recent flow of good news which suggests the economy will have skirted a recession,” said Markit economist Chris Williamson.

“Looking ahead, the lack of big new projects such as Crossrail and the Olympics means expectations about the year ahead continued to run well below the pre-crisis peaks, but business confidence nevertheless reached the highest for nearly two years.”