Construction order figures fell 16.3% in the second quarter of 2011 against first quarter figures — meaning that the total volume of all new orders is now at its lowest total since the third quarter of 1980, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The figures, released today, also showed that orders for that quarter were down 23.2% on the same period last year. Private industrial was the only sector that showed a positive growth from the first to the second quarter (6.6%).
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) called the figures “shocking” and said it was “extremely concerned”, citing the impact of public sector spending cuts combined with a lack of confidence on the part of the private sector to invest in new construction.
“It’s hard to see any silver lining on this particular cloud,” said CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner. “No one was expecting stellar order figures, bearing in mind the impact of public spending cuts and the more general economic environment both here and abroad, but it’s the sheer scale of this drop that is concerning.”
However, others said there were likely to be brighter times ahead. “Confidence is now at its lowest level for eight months, but my view is that there is no need to break out the ‘end is nigh’ sandwich boards,” said construction consultant Turner & Townsend UK managing director Steve McGuckin. “There is a substantial lag between what’s seen by the contractors — who are the focus of this survey — and the consultants in the vanguard of the industry. In many ways, the contractors are now feeling the pressure that consultants went through a year or two ago.”