Annual output bounces back

Annual construction output rose by 12.7 per cent in 2021 as the industry recovered from the pandemic, with a significant rise recorded in infrastructure work.


New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), released today, showed that the record 12.7 per cent output growth was lower than the annual decline in 2020 – which amounted to 14.9 per cent.


According to the data, infrastructure output was 44.7 per cent higher in December 2021 than it had been before the pandemic in February 2020. Private new housing was up by 0.3 per cent, when comparing the same periods, but private commercial builds and public housing output were down by 29.1 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.


Meanwhile, the month-on-month data from the body also showed that construction output grew by 2 per cent in December 2021. New work in infrastructure and private housing led the growth, which was supplemented by rises in private industrial and public new housing. While new work climbed higher, repairs and maintenance fell, but they stayed above pre-pandemic, or February 2020, levels.


Total construction new orders increased by 9.2 per cent, or £1.1bn, in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the third quarter. The last time orders grew so much was in 2017, when high-value orders from HS2 drove the figures.


Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis noted that part of the reason that output appeared to grow so strongly was because the ONS had revised its initial statements about previous months down after their initial release. He said that that output in 2021 Q4 remained 2.3 per cent lower than in Q4 of 2019.


Francis also added that the overall output number “masked” the lower performance seen outside of the civils sector. He credited the rise in infrastructure output to major projects such as Hinkley Point C, Thames Tideway and HS2, as well as long-term utilities frameworks.


Scape group chief executive Mark Robinson said that the growth in December 2021 was characteristic of a year in which the industry “largely overcame the odds”. He warned that the easing of lockdown restrictions could see inflation rise again.