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Commercial gains

ORDERS FOR new construction work are increasing at a faster rate than at the start of the year.

The latest figures from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions show that new orders in the 12 months to the end of August were 5.5% up on the period between September 1996 and August 1997. This compares with a 4.3% increase in 1997 over 1996.

The most significant factor driving the increase is the commercial sector's continuing health. Orders were up 22.6% in August, compared to 18.4% during 1997. Most surprising is the turn-around in the public building sector, where orders are up by 15.4%. 1997 saw a fall of 3.8%.

The infrastructure sector is proving to be less of a drag on growth. Civils orders are still falling, down 16.4%, but this compares with a 19.3% drop in 1997. Orders between March and August 1998 were 20% higher than in the previous six month period.

The rise in orders is even more surprising given the collapse in two sectors. Industrial orders are reflecting the recession in manufacturing and are down 0.5%, while housing orders are 2% lower than last year.

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