Pace of slump starts to ease

THE pace of the decline in the service sector, the powerhouse behind three quarters of the UK economy, has begun to slow, according to the CBI.<br /><br />In the consumer services sector, such as hotels, the volume of business fell at its fastest rate since November 2001 over the past quarter, but this was offset by rising prices, according to research published today by the employers&rsquo; organisation.<br /><br />Meanwhile, in the business and professional services sector, such as accounting, values fell faster than volumes due to record deflation in average selling prices.<br /><br />However, in both sectors slower rates of decline in both values and volumes of business are expected in the next three months. If realised, the declines in activity would be the slowest since last summer.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) data, also published today, indicates that the pace of decline is beginning to slow in the construction sector.<br /><br />According to its quarterly survey, construction workloads remained in negative territory for the fourth consecutive quarter, but both private and public housing saw a slight improvement in the number of surveyors reporting falling workloads, with 49 per cent more surveyors reporting a fall than a rise in private housing, up from -66 per cent.<br /><br />&ldquo;This slight easing we are seeing is broadly in line with the figures coming from the government on the number of housing starts, which saw a small rise in the first quarter of 2009, and could be aligned to recent signs of a gentle pick-up in activity in the housing market,&rdquo; commented RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn.