Buoyant building sector hits fastest growth in six years

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The Independent Online

Construction hit its fastest level of growth in six years, according to the latest survey of the building sector.

The Markit/Cips Purchasing Managers' Index of activity in November leapt to 62.6, up from 59.4 in October, the strongest reading since August 2007. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The month's growth, which was well above City forecasts, was supported by rising activity in commercial construction and civil engineering, but the largest contribution came from residential building, as Government support for the housing market kicked in.

"The construction sector does now seem to be enjoying decent – and increasingly broad-based – recovery after extended, deep weakness," Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said.

He added that the sector, which accounts for 6.3 per cent of the economy, would likely contribute to another strong GDP growth figure for the final quarter of the year.

The survey also showed strong expectations from building firms of future growth – the proportion of businesses anticipating a rise in output in the year ahead reached its highest level since 2009. For the sixth-successive month the sector created additional jobs.

However, data from the Office for National Statistics show that at the end of September the output of the construction sector was still 13 per cent below its peak in the first quarter of 2008.

"Construction growth is still coming from a low base as output levels rebound from a deep and protracted double-dip recession that only really ended this summer," Tim Moore of Markit said.

"Although construction's present growth trajectory may be the steepest for more than six years, there is a huge loss of output to recoup."

The building sector grew by 1.7 per cent quarter on quarter in the three months to September according to the Office for National Statistics, with analysts identifying a boost to sentiment from the Government's Help to Buy equity subsidies for first-time buyers.