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Northern Ireland construction suffers fastest fall in seven years

By John Mulgrew

The construction sector here will face the impact of Brexit along with other issues which must be tackled "to ensure the viability of the industry".

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF), was speaking about the industry here as the latest UK-wide statistics saw the sector experience its fastest fall since June 2009 as it came under pressure from economic uncertainty sparked by Britain's vote to leave the EU.

The Markit/CIPS construction purchasing managers' index (PMI) was 45.9 in July, down slightly from 46. A result of 50 indicates growth.

The report said the drop was driven by the steepest fall in the commercial building sector for more than six years, while civil engineering activity tumbled for the first time in 2016.

Mr Armstrong said: "The July PMI reaffirms the clear soundings we have been taking from the bulk of our membership in recent months. The run-up to the EU referendum, followed by its outcome, has led to a renewed and unwelcome period of uncertainty for the construction industry across the UK.

"These figures come after the publication last week of the Q2 GDP data which showed a second successive quarter of decline, thus entering the industry into technical recession.

"Even for the modest return to growth of the last three years, margins have remained incredibly tight and workloads comparably low.

"Notwithstanding the impact of Brexit, there are significant sustainability issues at play within the local construction industry - issues which we must get to grips with to, frankly, ensure the viability of the industry in the near to medium term - from delivering the confidence critical infrastructure pipeline of the Northern Ireland Executive, to creating the conditions the industry needs to grow housebuilding to identified demand levels," he added.

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