The past year and a half have been a significant challenge for every person and industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. As specialists within the construction industry, we know that our sector has been particularly affected. When the UK’s initial lockdown was first introduced in March 2021, the industry came to a complete halt, with all work stopped until further notice. Two months later, the government declared the construction industry as an essential sector that must continue functioning. While construction has been allowed to operate for most of the pandemic, the industry has still struggled at times. Construction companies have suffered from decreased demand, financial uncertainty, restrictions on travel, and adapting to Covid-Secure regulations.
Over time, society has gradually adjusted to Covid-19. Even with rising infections, measures have been taken to mitigate risk and avoid further lockdowns. As we surpass the midway point of the year, 2021 is looking more promising than ever. The successful vaccination rollout means that over half of the country is now protected after receiving two vaccine doses. Therefore, we are one step closer to normality. This week the Prime Minister announced that from July 19th, most of the country’s restrictions will be lifted. There will be no limits on social gatherings, remaining businesses will be able to re-open, and employees will no longer be advised to work from home. It is likely that the final easing of restrictions will further boost UK’s economy and bolster several industries, including construction.
In today’s blog post, we will be looking at recent figures on the UK’s construction output to see how the industry continues to progress following a challenging period.
Every month, the Office of National Statistics releases a construction output report which presents key figures for that month. The latest construction report was released in June and covers the period of April 2021. We will be using this report as the basis for this article in summarising how the industry is shaping up so far this year.
The first key point that we will analyse is April’s construction output. The month saw an all work index of 99.5 with £13,961 million. While this is down 2% from March, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. March 2021 can be viewed as a month that saw unprecedented growth over previous months and April. In March, the construction output saw a 5.8% increase largely attributed to delayed projects resuming, warm weather, and increased demand and confidence. The decrease in April’s output occurred across both new work projects and repair and maintenance jobs.
When compared to pre-pandemic levels, the industry’s outlook continues to look increasingly positive. In April 2021, the output was 0.3% higher than the output in February 2020. The statistics suggest that April was 3.4% below February 2020 for new work projects. In comparison, however, repair and maintenance work is doing much better with a 7.1% increase. It can be argued that there will always be demand for repair and maintenance, hence why this area of construction continues to rise. New work can be seen as more costly and risky, which is perhaps why it has not yet jumped to pre-pandemic levels. However, with restrictions soon to ease further, there should be greater confidence in proceeding with new projects.
If we look at a three-month comparison, there is even more room for optimism. In the three months to April, the output grew by 5.1% (£2,005 million). According to the ONS, outside the August 2020 to November 2020 period (an increase of 10.2%), “this is the largest growth in the three-month on three-month series since monthly records began in January 2010.” The output increase in three months happened across nearly all sectors, except for public housing repair and maintenance and private industrial new work
Ultimately, we can gather from this report that the construction industry continues to slowly re-build from the Coronavirus pandemic. While the overall output is better than pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, some improvements are still to come. In particular, repair and maintenance are strong while new work has a fair amount of catching up to do. With significant lockdown restrictions eased in May, the next report will likely be even more positive. Stage 4 of the roadmap in June was delayed, so we expect that the July 2021 construction output report will begin to show the effect of most restrictions having been removed.
The information and data mentioned in this article are based on official figures released by the Office of National Statistics. More specifically, the data is based on a monthly construction output report for April 2021. This report was released to the public on 11 June 2021. Visit the ONS April report to see the overall figures in their full detail. If you would like to request scaffolding for your commercial or personal project, don’t hesitate to contact us.