Snow responsible for construction slowdown

The construction sector has seen the biggest monthly slowdown since just after the Brexit vote in 2016, with March output slowing up due to “the beast from the East”.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers Index shows that the decline throughout the month was worse than any that had been predicted. The index dropped to 47 from 51, just one month before. Any score of less than 50 indicates a slowdown. This has been put down to the snowstorms that plagued the UK throughout the month of March and affected sectors associated with the building sector, but not house building itself.

Civil engineering, in particular, saw one of its biggest downturns in five years. The figures also highlighted the weak demand for construction firms across the last three months, with the weather only responsible for the last month.

Duncan Brock from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply has stated that it has been several years since the UK has suffered a spate of poor weather such as was experienced during March and it seems that the supply chains were unprepared to deal with the disruption.

Construction firms have also been hit by the fall in the value of the pound that is pushing up prices of building materials, however, this is starting to dissipate. Costs have risen at their slowest rate in 20 months according to the survey, which may have limited some of the effects of the weather disruption.

Despite these figures, it is expected that there could be a rebound in the construction industry during April, with optimism in the sector at a nine-month high.