Office for National Statistics says activity dropped by largest amount on record

Construction output fell off a cliff in April, with the covid-19 lockdown causing activity to experience its biggest monthly drop on record with a fall of 40.1%.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the industry saw a 41.2% fall in new work while repair and maintenance work tumbled 38.1%.


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Construction bore the brunt of the lockdown in April when sites up and down the country shut down

All these decreases were the largest falls on record since the monthly records began in January 2010.

The figures showed month-on-month falls in all new work sectors with private new housing and private commercial slumping by 59.2% and 39.7% respectively.

Clive Docwra, managing director of consultant McBains, said the numbers were further confirmation that the construction sector had a tough task ahead to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Particular concerns are private new housing work seeing a third consecutive month of large decline, exacerbated by the covid-19 lockdown on April and now at its lowest level for a decade – bad news for the industry but also for prospective homeowners given the housing shortage.

“Hopefully today’s figures will represent the nadir given they cover the full month of lockdown but while many large construction firms are now resuming work, many will still be weakened by reduced order pipelines over the next few months.”

The decrease in repair and maintenance was also driven by record month-on-month falls in all sectors with the largest contributor being private housing repair and maintenance which declined by 54.3%.

Construction output also fell by a record 18.2% in the three months to April, compared with the previous three-month period. This was driven by a 19.4% fall in new work and a 15.8% fall in repair and maintenance.

The update said anecdotal evidence received from extensive contributor comments and the ONS’ business impact of coronavirus survey revealed the pandemic drove the large falls in construction output.

It also revealed that for the first time ever data was collected by online questionnaire than by paper questionnaire.