Construction sector hurt by last month's snow

By Sharon Marris, Business Reporter
The extreme winter weather has taken its toll on the UK's construction sector, causing a contraction in March.
The Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index was down to 47 last month, a fall from February's 51.4, with a reading above 50 representing growth.
Housebuilding increased slightly but other sectors suffered, with civil engineering experiencing its sharpest downturn in five years and commercial work seeing its biggest drop in nine years.Tim Moore, associate director at IHS Markit and author of the IHS Markit/CIPS Construction PMI, said: "The construction sector continued to experience subdued business conditions during March, but snow-related disruption was a key factor behind the marked decline in activity on site reported by survey respondents."A solid rise in employment numbers and the rebound in business expectations to a nine-month high provide an indication that construction activity will strengthen over the near-term."However, survey respondents noted that underlying demand remains constrained by heightened economic uncertainty and risk aversion among clients."
Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: "Snow stopped play in March, as the unseasonal weather restricted overall activity, lengthened delivery times and triggered the fastest drop in new orders since July 2016."Construction makes up about 6% of British economic output.
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Scotiabank economist Alan Clarke described it as "the problem child of the UK GDP breakdown", adding that the sector could play a major role in first-quarter economic growth figures due later this month.A PMI released on Tuesday showed manufacturing was showing signs of growth and a PMI covering the important services sector is due on Thursday.
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