UK construction sector bounces back after ‘beast from the east’

The UK construction industry has recovered from the disruption caused by March’s wintry weather, returning to growth last month.

The Markit/Cips UK construction purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 52.5 last month, up from 47 in March. Economists were expecting a figure of 50.5.

Tim Moore, the associate director at IHS Markit, which compiled the report, said: “A rebound in construction activity was pretty well inevitable after snowfall resulted in severe disruptions on-site during March.

“Housebuilding led the way, with growth in April among the strongest seen over the past two and a half years. However, the picture was less positive in other areas of construction, with commercial building and civil engineering work rising only marginally.”

The barometer of economic activity slumped to 47 last month from 51.4 in February, placing the industry below the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction.

The troubles caused by the “beast from the east” in March had a particularly heavy impact on civil engineering projects, according to the survey of more than 170 construction firms, which is watched by the Bank of England to gauge what is happening at grassroots level in the economy. The fall in civil engineering activity, which includes work on roads and bridges, suffered the biggest monthly downturn in five years.