Just as when the country finally climbed out of recession in the second half of last year, construction led the way with a strong performance, so the dreadful weather leading up to Christmas contributed to a fall off in the following quarter. What was surprising to most of those inside the industry, however, was to be told that the lacklustre 0.5 per cent growth in GDP for Q1 this year, included a set back of more than four per cent for construction.
Most builders have their own barometer for measuring output – whether it is the difficulty in recruiting skilled workers or the number of tower cranes on the skyline – but almost everyone you talk to at the moment is feeling very positive. And Plastic Surgeon can report that March was the company’s busiest month ever, with the national call centre booking more work even than at the height of the housing bubble. And remarkably that has been achieved with some 20 fewer finishers out on the road than three years ago.
Other indicators which point towards continued improvement have been the record number of new plot registrations taken by the NHBC, and the sales figures seen by members of the Construction Products Association.
Even though we have a Chancellor who earnestly wants to be able to tell the markets that output is improving across all the sectors, he has to rely on the findings of the independent body he established last year – the Office for Budgetary Responsibility – and it is possible that this is too reliant on feedback from national and local government departments.
We are undoubtedly going to see further impact from cut backs in public sector spending: affecting infrastructure projects and the development of facilities such as schools and hospitals. Yet many such structures are still being erected, while commercial property companies are also responding to growing demand, and housebuilding is recovering pace rapidly.
At Plastic Surgeon we are anticipating many more good months ahead as 2011 unfolds.