It has suffered grievously from the collapse of the housing boom and the recession more generally, but the pain for Britain's building trade is seemingly not over yet: employment in construction declined for its 18th consecutive month.
The latest poll of confidence in the sector by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply and Markit suggests that construction activity contracted for the 21st successive month in November, although the pace of decline eased and there was a more hopeful trend in new orders.
Unlike the manufacturing and serve sectors, the Cips Construction Index remains rooted below the 50 level – a reading of above 50 indicates future expansion. The index rose to 47 in November, its highest since August, from 46.2 in October.
The recent stabilisation in house prices sees to have yielded some benefits, but commercial and civil engineering contractors report declines.
David Noble, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, said: "There is little festive cheer for the UK construction industry which remains very vulnerable. A broader economic recovery will improve the sector's outlook. However, it appears we are still some way off from returning to growth, let alone reaching the level it was at only two years ago."
Howard Archer, the chief economist at Global Insight, added: "Over the long term, the construction sector will be hit by the Government's need to rein in its spending for an extended period as this is bound to hit expenditure on infrastructure and public buildings."