Annual construction output increased by a record 12.7% in 2021 compared with 2020, mainly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic contributing to a very weak 2020. However, a 12.7% rise after a 14.9% fall (in 2019) is a significant net fall of 4.2% over the two-year period.
According to official figures, the 2% monthly rise in construction output in December 2021 came solely from an increase in new work (3.5%) as repair and maintenance saw a decline of 0.7% on the month. So despite the fact that the two-year figure shows an overall decrease, the fact that December’s increase was solely due to new work is very positive as it shows construction clients are confident to now proceed with their planned projects.
Infrastructure new work and private new housing were the largest contributors to the monthly increase, each growing 8.5% (£212m) and 3.1% (£95m) respectively.
The construction sector is often used as a measure of the UK’s general economic performance so these figures are very good news, and could be a tentative start towards post-COVID recovery.
The positive figures are a hopeful sign that pandemic-related disruption and supply chain issues are now behind us. However, it is too early to know if this is a long-term sustainable recovery of the sector, particularly given the likely impact of price increases on supplies.