Shocking impact of recession on UK construction revealed

Output 26% below pre-crash growth trajectory.

  • Total construction output (the amount chargeable to customers for building work) is 26% below where it should be following the recession
  • Comparing like for like, current output is still 3% below pre-recession levels in Q3 this year, despite anticipated quarterly growth of 5%
  • A lack of the growth in the private sector is to blame, with output 31% below the pre-recession trajectory

Scape, the UK’s leading construction procurement company, has analysed ONS data and found that despite recent positive GDP growth, the UK construction sector is operating 3% below the levels seen before the recession and drastically short (-26%) of where it should be. (See Graph 1)

The detailed report provides a full picture of the construction industry, analysing private and public sector growth across the core areas of housing, infrastructure, education and health. Peter Hansford, the Government’s Chief Construction Adviser, comments in the report:

“This research shows the dramatic and profound impact the downturn has had on the construction industry.”

The report also examines future activity in the construction sector by analysing planning applications granted, which are 19% below pre-recession levels and also the cost of materials, which have risen by 18% over the same period.

The reason for the dramatic contraction of construction as a whole is the private sector – which is 31% below where it should be based on the trend up until 2008, and 7% below actual pre-crash output.

The public sector has remained stable and supported the entire industry, preventing even further decline, although growth has been relatively stagnant since 2008. Output in this sector is actually 9% up on pre-recession levels but is still 9% below the trajectory of where it should be.

Mark Robinson, Group Chief Executive of Scape comments:

“Some progress has been made but the construction industry is not out of the woods yet. Looking back over 17 years it is clear to see that after a period of more or less consistent growth, the recession sent shockwaves through the industry and we have not yet recovered. Even with the recent upturn, we are still significantly below where construction output should have been if the pre-recession growth had continued.”

Peter Hansford, the Government’s Chief Construction Adviser in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, asserts:

“This research shows the dramatic and profound impact the downturn has had on the construction industry. Confidence within the sector is yet to recover fully. The analysis also highlights the importance of the public sector development projects as part of the wider construction industry, especially during periods of financial uncertainty.”