SINCE the start of last summer there has been a tentative wave of positivity in the industry. It is reassuring that today's official figures back up that sentiment.
After five torrid years, today's figures provide the strongest sign yet that the decline in construction output in Northern Ireland has finally come to an end. We will need a few more quarters of growth to say that for certain, but with encouraging reports already in for the final quarter of 2013 and positive soundings on workload in 2014, it is fair to say that construction is bouncing back. Of course, with output having fallen so far we have a long journey back to normal levels of activity.
Delivery of public capital construction projects like schools, hospitals, stadiums, social housing, roads and water infrastructure, will be key to supporting the economic recovery in 2014.
The Chancellor has consistently boosted capital investment in recent years and Northern Ireland is benefiting as a result. There is over £1.5bn of capital funding available to the Northern Ireland Executive in 2014-15. The challenge for our ministers is to ensure that these projects get started on the ground without delay and the money is spent.
Private house-building will also play its part in driving economic growth this year. The local housing market is slowly warming up and we are hopeful that the introduction of the Help to Buy scheme will accelerate the recovery.