Jane Embury, director, looks at green shoots…
It’s not quite the season to be jolly, but there is some cause for optimism.
Building industry optimism over the three months to the end of May has jumped by 90% compared to figures published in December last year.
While that doesn’t amount to a great deal, given where we were at the start of the year, does it amount to some hope?
The results were revealed in a survey carried out for Building Boardroom, and cover current workloads and work enquiries. The survey also asked about future work expectations.
While current workloads are almost identical to December’s figures, enquiries are markedly up. Enquiries relating to private housing have more than doubled since the last quarter.
Retail remains the weakest sector, although enquiries are up by 32%. This does, of course, reflect on the easing of restrictions.
The survey also showed greater confidence in the office sector. A greater number of respondents said they expected enquiries to increase.
The easing of restrictions has buoyed optimism, alongside falling infection rates and the success of the vaccination programme.
This all helped lift the IHS Markit/CIPS output figure up to 61.7 last month from a score of 53.3 in February.
That’s markedly up from 49.2 in January when the new lockdown was imposed.
In further good news, the survey found that work resuming on delayed office and hospitality schemes helped construction output grow at its fastest rate for more than six years.
However, the trouble with surveys is that they provide only a snapshot of opinion. While rising optimism is good, let’s not get carried away.
There are major issues for local and national government to address. In particular, we’ve highlighted the future of office buildings and the high street.
What’s certain is that there will have to be much greater public sector investment to repurpose local communities for the next normal.
That’s not to downplay the optimism of this survey. It’s a positive start, and that must be welcomed.
However, whatever the future, one thing is certain. The construction industry will play a major part in building that future.