The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI Total Activity Index for March was at 61,7, it’s best performance since September 2014. The fact that the industry was considered “essential”, meant that most of the sector was operating in March, a contrast to the situation in 2020, which helped push the numbers upwards.
Despite negative issues such as supply chain disruption and increased prices, overall the industry performed well in terms of output, order books and employment. The numbers were driven by the housebuilding sector, which has grown continuously in the last ten months; and were well supported by expansions in both commercial construction and civil engineering work.
The future looks promising with a range of large-scale civil engineering projects coming online. They include the Thames Tideway tunnel, the HS2 rail project, ongoing work on the Hinkley Point C power station as well as various five-year investment programmes within the regulated sectors of roads, rail, and water & sewerage.
The report draws caution towards the implications of new trade relationships with Europe, the implications of Brexit on the labour supply, net-zero commitments and the results of policy decisions such as the regional "levelling up" plan.
In terms of the immediate outlook, the IHS Markit expects the construction industry to grow by 2.9% in 2021. However, as construction firms adopt a wait-and-see approach to new projects, it is not expected that the activity returns to pre-pandemic levels until 2027.
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