Construction stats revised – not as bad as feared

Grant Prior 13 years ago
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Government number crunchers have revised dire construction figures for the first quarter to show the industry didn’t fare as badly as feared.

An update from the Office for National Statistics today said construction output fell 4.0% in the first three months.

The drop is less than the initially reported 4.7% but still represents the biggest quarter-on-quarter decline since the start of 2009.

The revision means overall GDP growth was just under 0.1% better than originally stated.

The sharp fall in construction activity recorded by the Government has caused raised eyebrows across the industry with many construction economists convinced the ONS numbers paint too gloomy a picture.

The doubts have forced the ONS to revise the way it collects construction data and today’s revisions will cast further doubt over official statistics.

Leaders of the Construction Products Association have written to chancellor George Osborne asking for improvements to the ONS data collection.

Chief executive Michael Ankers said the skewed numbers are having a serious effect on policy making decisions among contractors.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, said: “Data released this morning from the ONS reinforces the message contained in the recent GDP figure that construction output fell more sharply in the first quarter of 2011 than in the final three months of last year.

“We find this conclusion hard to square with much of the anecdotal evidence, whether it is the results of other sector surveys or responses from RICS members.

“The generally mild weather in the early part of this year should, if nothing else, have helped the construction industry.

“Looking forward, there are still significant challenges facing the sector, in particular, the dramatic cuts in the Government’s capital spending programme and the continuing difficulties in securing development finance.

“As a result, even if official numbers are currently understating the resilience of the sector, the recovery in construction output is likely to be particularly sluggish over the course of this year.”

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