Builders grounded by fall in orders

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CONSTRUCTION order books have collapsed since the end of summer, with the fall-out from Black Wednesday dealing a particularly heavy blow to the building industry, according to a survey published yesterday.

As a result, the National Council of Building Material Producers said, the housing market is not expected to begin recovering until the second half of 1993 and many construction firms are bracing themselves for extended Christmas shut-downs.

The council's latest forecast shows a sharp downward revision for construction output this year, following the particularly poor levels of work and order books recorded last month.

Private sector repair, maintenance and improvement work have been hardest hit and total output in the sector is not expected to stabilise until 1994.

Private housing starts are forecast to dip by 10,000 to 125,000 this year and rise to 130,000 next year and 145,000 in 1994.

The one glimmer of hope is that public sector investment is forecast to rise in 1993 following the Chancellor's measures in the Autumn Statement. The 2 per cent rise in public sector work, on projects such as roads, housebuilding and renovation, will limit the overall fall in construction output to 1.5 per cent.