Belfast Telegraph

Increase in new work helps building trade hit seven-year high for output

By Margaret Canning

The Northern Ireland construction sector hit a seven-year high in output at the end of last year with growth of 3.6% year on year, according to a report.

The construction bulletin from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said there had been growth of 2.6% in new work and a 1.4% jump in repair and maintenance on the quarter before.

New work accounted for two-thirds of all construction output in the third quarter.

And repair and maintenance was 12.5% higher than the same quarter in 2016.

Overall output was up 1.8% on the third quarter of last year.

Nisra said the latest figures - which are confined to covering work carried out in Northern Ireland - were continuing a general trend in growth in output since 2014.

There was a 4.1% increase in 'other work' on a quarterly basis, while housing output was steady.

But in the last quarter of 2017, there was a slump of 5.5% in infrastructure output - mainly due to a decline in spending on private infrastructure.

Neal Taylor, audit partner at business advisory firm Grant Thornton Northern Ireland, said the improvements shown in the index would provide a "major boost" to the sector.

"Total output was 1.8% higher than the third quarter and 3.6% up on the same period in 2016," he explained.

"It is encouraging also that much of the increased activity was accounted for by a 2.6% rise in new work - the largest sub-sector - reversing a decline in the previous three months.

"As anticipated by our clients in the construction industry, the overall figure was hampered by a 5.5% decrease in infrastructure output, due largely to a sharp decline in new private infrastructure.

"By contrast, public infrastructure activity rose but remains relatively subdued compared to recent years."

The largest sub-sector in quarter four was 'other work', which made up 42% of output, followed by housing at 37% and infrastructure at 22%.

Housing output was 10.8% above what it had been in the fourth quarter of 2016, and while Nisra said output had been growing, it was still well below historical levels.

The construction sector was the area hardest hit during the economic downturn. While output has been growing, it is still below the peak of 2007 before the credit crunch and banking crisis.

A separate survey on construction for the last few months of 2017 from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said there had been a rise in housebuilding here but a fall in "private industrial and public non-housing activity".

Belfast Telegraph

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