Construction output in 2.8% drop

Output in the construction sector fell by a bigger-than-expected 2.8% in February after heavy rain and flooding blighted building sites across the UK.

Wet and windy weather is thought to have affected the construction sector output over February
Wet and windy weather is thought to have affected the construction sector output over February

The month-on-month decline, which the Office for National Statistics estimated was worth £270 million, meant the sector grew by 0.3% over the winter months of December, January and February against the previous quarter.

It is the second setback for the industry in recent months after a 4% output decline in November was blamed on a shortage of bricks and bricklayers.

Economists said it is likely that activity in the sector will have rebounded strongly in March, as better weather allows builders to make up for storm and flood-related downtime in February.

Markit economist Chris Williamson said: "The sector therefore remains in a period of strong growth, merely dampened by the weather at the start of the year, and further robust growth is likely in coming months."

He said that rising business investment should spur further commercial construction activity, while at the same time housebuilders are showing signs of responding to the increase in demand for residential property.

The impact of February's construction figure is unlikely to have too much bearing on GDP for the first quarter of this year, with economists expecting further growth of 0.8% when the estimate is released later this month.