Increase in new business

April data indicated a moderate recovery in construction output following the weather-related disruptions seen during March, according to HIS Markit. House building was the main category of activity to experience robust growth in April.

However, there were signs that underlying demand across the construction sector remained subdued, with total new work rising only marginally in April.

The increase in new business was the first recorded by the survey so far in 2018.

At 52.5 in April, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) picked up sharply from the 20-month low seen in March (47.0). The latest reading was the highest since November 2017 and signalled a moderate expansion of overall construction output.

Residential work was by far the best performing category of construction activity in April, with the rate of growth reaching its strongest since May 2017. Survey respondents widely commented on the resumption of house building activity following snow disruptions in March.

Weather-related improvements were also seen for commercial building and civil engineering activity, with both areas recording a modest return to growth after marked declines in the previous month.

Mirroring the trend for business activity, latest data revealed a renewed rise in new order volumes across the construction sector. However, the rate of new business expansion was only marginal. Anecdotal evidence cited heightened economic uncertainty and subdued confidence among clients in April. In some cases, construction firms noted that a knock-on impact from unusually bad weather conditions had contributed to delays with sales completions during the latest survey period.

Tim Moore, associate director at IHS Markit, said: “While temporary factors make it difficult to gauge underlying momentum, the recovery from March’s low point is somewhat underwhelming and provides an indication that the construction sector has been treading water at the very best in recent months.”