1. Main points

  • Construction output contracted by 0.9% in the three-month on three-month series in September 2017, but remains at relatively high levels.
  • This fall of 0.9% for Quarter 3 (July to September) follows a decline of 0.5% in Quarter 2 (April to June), representing the first consecutive quarter-on-quarter decline in current estimates of construction output since Quarter 3 2012.
  • The 0.9% decline in output was due to decreases in both repair and maintenance, which fell 1.4% and all new work, which fell 0.7%.
  • Construction output fell 1.6% month-on-month in September 2017, stemming from falls of 2.1% in repair and maintenance and 1.3% in all new work.
  • The estimate for construction growth in Quarter 3 2017 has been revised down 0.2 percentage points from negative 0.7% in the preliminary estimate of gross domestic product (GDP), which has no impact on quarterly GDP growth to one decimal place.
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2. Things you need to know about this release

The monthly business survey, Construction output, collects output by sector from businesses in the construction industry within Great Britain. Output is defined as the amount chargeable to customers for building and civil engineering work done in the relevant period excluding Value Added Tax (VAT) and payments to sub-contractors.

The survey’s results are used to produce seasonally adjusted monthly, quarterly and annual estimates of output in the construction industry at current price and at chained volume measures (removing the effect of inflation). The estimates are widely used by private and public sector institutions, particularly by the Bank of England and Her Majesty’s Treasury, to assist in informed decision-making and policy-making. Construction output is an important economic indicator and is also therefore used in the compilation of the output measure of gross domestic product.

This September 2017 release contains revisions for July 2017 onwards. This means that we have incorporated additional data since this period.

Revisions can be made for a variety of reasons, the most common include:

  • late responses to surveys and administrative sources, or changes to original returns
  • forecasts being replaced by actual data
  • revisions to seasonal adjustment factors, which are re-estimated every month and reviewed annually

On 11 December 2014, the UK Statistics Authority announced its decision to suspend the designation of Construction output and new orders as National Statistics due to concerns about the quality of the Construction Price and Cost Indices used to remove the effects of inflation from the statistics.

We took responsibility for the publication of the Construction Price and Cost indices from the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on 1 April 2015, introducing an interim solution for measuring output prices in June 2015 for all periods from January 2014 onwards.

The impact of improvements to construction statistics article explains and highlights the impact of recent improvements to construction statistics, affecting the nominal data series, output price indices and seasonal adjustment. As a result, the output price indices are no longer considered to be an interim method.

The Office for Statistics Regulation has put out a request for feedback and comments from users of these statistics, as part of the process for re-assessing the National Statistic status for Construction statistics: output, new orders and price indices. Responses are requested for eight different areas of these statistics, as well as any other aspect and should be sent to regulation@statistics.gov.uk by 30 November 2017.

Summary information can be found in the Construction Output Quality and Methodology information.

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3. Construction output in September 2017

Construction output fell 0.9% during the three-month on three-month period to September 2017. The rolling three-month time series provides a more comprehensive picture of underlying trends in the industry, while the month-on-month series, also shown in Figure 1, shows how volatile construction output can be.

Construction output fell for the fifth consecutive month in the three-month on three-month time series in September 2017, representing the longest sustained fall in output since October 2012. The fall in output can also be seen in the month-on-month series, with output declining 1.6% in September 2017, following growth of 0.8% in the previous month.

Figure 1 shows that despite these recent consecutive declines, construction output still remains at a relatively high level. Construction output peaked in January 2017, reaching a level that was 29% higher than the lowest point of the last five years, January 2013. Despite continuing to fall in September 2017, construction output remains 25.7% above this level.

In the preliminary gross domestic product (GDP) estimate for July to September 2017 the Quarter 3 (July to September) growth rate for construction output was estimated to be negative 0.7%. This has been revised down by 0.2 percentage points, to negative 0.9%. In comparison with our previous release, growth for both July and August has been upwardly revised by 0.2 percentage points. July growth increased from negative 1% to negative 0.8%, while August growth increased from 0.6% to 0.8%. These revisions have been caused mainly by the receipt of late data.

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4. Contributions to growth

Construction output can be broken down by different types of work; these are categorised into all new work, and repair and maintenance, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 shows that through to mid-2014, all new work, and repair and maintenance followed a similar pattern but since reaching a level peak in August 2014, repair and maintenance has remained relatively stable. Over the same period, all new work has continued to increase steadily, largely down to a rise in new housing work. Throughout the majority of 2017, both all new work, and repair and maintenance are continuing to show a similar trend.

Repair and maintenance fell sharply in the month-on-month series in September 2017, contracting by 2.1% compared with the previous month. All new work also fell 1.3% month-on-month in September 2017, following growth of 1.7% in August 2017. It is worth noting that all new work accounts for approximately two-thirds of all work, while repair and maintenance accounts for approximately one-third.

Figure 3 shows the difference in three-month on three-month volume from the different sectors in terms of real value growth, taken from our seasonally adjusted chained volume measure series.

Construction output fell by £361 million in September 2017. This fall stems predominantly from a £236 million decrease in private commercial new work, as well as a fall of £165 million from total housing repair and maintenance. Elsewhere, the strongest positive contributions to three-month on three-month output came from housing new work, with private housing growing £138 million and public housing expanding by £65 million.

Figure 4 shows the difference in month-on-month volume from the different sectors in terms of real value growth, taken from our seasonally adjusted chained volume measure series.

All work fell by £201 million in September 2017 compared with the previous month. As seen in Figure 4, the month-on-month fall stemmed from falls in housing repair and maintenance, and private commercial work, which fell £97 million and £82 million respectively. Elsewhere, the majority of other sectors remained broadly flat. The most notable positive contributions to month-on-month growth came from private industrial work, which increased by £14 million and new public housing work, which grew by £11 million.

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5. Detailed growth rates

Table 1 provides a detailed description of the growth rates of each work type, alongside the seasonally adjusted chained volume measure level of output.

Total all work decreased to £12,628 million in September 2017. This fall stems from decreases in both all new work, which fell to £8,209 million, and total repair and maintenance, which fell to £4,419 million.

New housing work continued to provide the main upward pressure on construction output in both the three-month on three-month and month-on-year series. Despite contracting on a month-on-month basis, new private housing continued to increase in the three-month on three-month time series and month-on-year series by 1.8% and 5.4% respectively. The relatively smaller new public housing sector has experienced more marked growth, rising 4.9% on a three-month on three-month basis and 14.6% compared with September 2016.

In contrast, the private commercial sector fell across all three time series shown in Table 1. The month-on-year fall of 1.3% was the first contraction in the private commercial sector since September 2015. Unlike new housing, private commercial work also fell month-on-month, contributing to a three-month on three-month fall of 3.1% in September 2017. The largest types of work within private commercial are offices and entertainment work, along with schools, universities and shops.

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7. Quality and methodology

Our Monthly Construction Output Survey measures output from the construction industry in Great Britain. It samples 8,000 businesses, with all businesses employing over 100 people or with an annual turnover of more than £60 million receiving a questionnaire by post every month.

The Construction Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • uses and users
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data
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