The Chancellor presented his Autumn Statement last week with one positive point relevant to construction, that the government would beinvesting £1bn in loans to unblock stalled housing developments in Leeds and Manchester; he commented that “If we want more people to own a home we have to build more homes.” It was also announced that Councils would be given the ability to sell their most expensive social housing to help fund more house building.

On the down side, the decision to water down the energy company obligation targets has caused energy companies to call a halt to funding now, even though the consultation is in January with implementation in March. This action is reported to have put a number of social housing projects on hold. This may be slightly countered by promised support measures to the Green Deal to boost demand.
The Nationwide House Price Index has announced an increase of 0.6% in November 2013 which was 6.5% higher than November 2012. The Halifax House Price Index announced an increase of 1.1% in November, making this the tenth successive monthly increase. However the average house price is still 12% below the August 2007 peak.

The latest CBI Industrial Trends Survey shows that UK manufacturing is the strongest it has been in 18 years, pointing towards UK recovery accelerating. The report stated that 36% of manufacturing firms reported total order books above normal in November and 25% saying they were below normal. This gives a balance of 11% which is the highest since March 1995. The report also said that the volume of output in the three months to November rose at its fastest since January 1995.

With all the news of fast growth and strong recovery the UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index from Markit and CIPS increased to 62.6 in November, up from 59.4 in October. This is the seventh month in a row activity has risen, making it the highest recorded value in 6 years.

However with all this growth happening so quickly it is not all cheer and promise. Jobs website Adzuna has released its UK Jobs Market Report, which shows that the recovery of large construction infrastructure projects is taking place mostly in the south, creating a significant increase in construction jobs in these regions; however increases in jobs in the north is not as positive. A recent survey byCITB has highlighted concerns over skills shortages. The study shows that over two fifths (42%) of construction firms are struggling to recruit workers with the right skills, and nearly one in five (18%) employers said that a skills gap has hampered their growth.

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