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Latest construction output figures

Published: 20/02/2024

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes monthly estimates of the amount of construction output chargeable to customers for building and civil engineering work in Great Britain, split by sector and type of work.

Construction output data puts final quarter of 2023 in recession

Construction output decreased by 0.5% in December 2023 compared with the previous month. While repair and maintenance (R&M) was up by 0.4% on November, it wasn’t enough to offset the decline in new work, which was down by 1.1%.

The December output figures complete the data for 4Q2023, with three consecutive months of decline producing an overall decrease of 1.3% compared with 3Q2023. While R&M was up by 4%, new work was down by 5%.

Construction was a significant contributor to estimates that UK gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.3% in the fourth quarter, following a 0.1% decrease in 3Q2023.

ONS pointed to seasonal weather continuing to impact output in construction, with frost, snow and storms all affecting projects in December, though the economic backdrop and continued tight monetary policies are clearly playing a major role.

In new work, the public housing sector once again fared best in December, with a 6.4% increase in output compared with November, while the biggest decrease was seen in infrastructure, which fell by 6.4%.

Private new housing registered a 0.1% increase on the month but, on an annual basis, was down 21.9%.

In R&M, public housing was up by 6.3% on the month and 18.3% on the year, while private housing was down compared with November (-1.1%), but still up 10.1% on an annual basis.

Sector    % change December 2023 compared with 
November 2023    December 2022    
New work 
Public housing     6.4  2.1 
Private housing     0.1  -21.9 
Infrastructure     -6.4  -14.9 
Public other  -0.9  -1.7 
Private industrial     4.6  -8.8 
Private commercial     0.1  -2.1 
All new work     -1.1  -12.6 
Repair and maintenance 
Public housing  6.3  18.3 
Private housing  -1.1  10.1 
Non-housing  0.3  12.5 
All R&M     0.4  12.2 
All work     -0.5  -3.2 

Source: ONS – Construction output in Great Britain, volume, seasonally adjusted, by sector, Table 2a

Sector    % change 4Q2023 compared with 
3Q2023    4Q2022    
New work 
Public housing     1.5  2.1 
Private housing     -8.0  -22.5 
Infrastructure     -7.5  -5.4 
Public other  0.3  5.8 
Private industrial     -0.5  -10.8 
Private commercial     -2.3  2.9 
All new work     -5.0  -9.1 
Repair and maintenance 
Public housing  8.3  14.1 
Private housing  4.3  8.6 
Non-housing  3.0  13.0 
All R&M     4.0  11.3 
All work     -1.3  -1.3 

Source: ONS – Construction output in Great Britain, volume, seasonally adjusted, by sector, Table 2a

Source: ONS – Construction output in Great Britain, volume, seasonally adjusted, by sector, Table 2a

Dr David Crosthwaite, Chief Economist at BCIS said: ‘The data confirms our recent suspicions that the construction sector was in recession at the end of last year, which has in turn contributed to estimates that GDP fell by 0.3% in the final quarter. 

‘The main drag on output is a fairly steep decline of 5% in new work activity on a quarterly basis, driven by significant falls in new housing and infrastructure output.

‘While the ONS seems to be suggesting that the weather has played a part, which may be the case, fundamentally there is a distinct lack of confidence economically and this is making any investment case difficult to justify.

‘The future pipeline looks ominous too when we look at the new orders series as that is also showing a significant fall.’

‘One bright spot is R&M activity, which saw an increase in output of 4% in 4Q2023, but unfortunately not enough to take total output into positive territory.

‘The balance of keeping borrowing rates high while trying to encourage investment is going to have a significant impact on how long declines in output are going to persist this year.’

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