February data pointed to a continuation of the subdued growth conditions reported across the UK construction sector at the beginning of 2018. Total business activity increased only marginally during the latest survey period, while new work decreased for the second month running.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that fragile business confidence and ongoing political uncertainty remained key factors holding back client demand. At the same time, strong input cost pressures were reported in February, with higher raw material prices, fuel bills and staff wages reported by survey respondents.
Survey respondents cited fragile client confidence, a headwind from political uncertainty and a continued lack of tender opportunities to replace completed work on infrastructure projects.
Construction companies indicated that business confidence moderated since January and was at one of the lowest levels seen in the past five years. Some firms noted that resilient UK economic conditions had supported optimism. However, there were also reports that Brexit-related uncertainty continued to influence decision making and act as a drag on the demand outlook.
Duncan Brock, Director of Customer Relationships at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: “The sector was feeling as flat as a pancake in February with falls in new orders for the second month in a row and with just a marginal rise in overall activity, as ongoing political and economic uncertainty shouldered the blame. Cost pressures continued to creep up and bear down on purchasing activity as raw materials became even more expensive and in shorter supply, and vendor performance degraded again impacting on the completion of projects. A talent shortage also gave staff the power to demand higher wages, adding to the overall cost burdens for business.”
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