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  Construction economists predict four years of growth

Construction economists predict four years of growth

29 August 2015 Email this article

The latest forecast from the Construction Products Association (CPA) confirms confidence in the industry’s prospects over the next few years, despite a downgrade in this year’s expected growth.

Four months ago the Construction Products Association (CPA) forecasted total construction output to grow by 5.5% in 2015. It now expects growth of 4.9% for this year. However, its 2016 forecast has been revised upwards from 4.0% to 4.2% and a further 3.5% growth is expected in 2017.

They predict that while a sharp fall in public housing is expected to hinder short-term growth, there will be strong growth in private house-building and civil engineering, just so long as steps are taken to address the skills shortage.

CPA economics director Noble Francis said:  “Prospects for the construction industry are very bright.  Construction output is forecast to increase 4.9% in 2015 – almost double the rate of growth for the UK economy as a whole – and 21.7% overall by 2019.  This growth will mainly be driven by an increase in work across the private housing and infrastructure sectors.

“Private house-building is forecast to rise 9.0% in 2015 and 5.5% in 2016 as it benefits from a strong property market supported by rising real wages, increased mortgage availability and government policies such as Help to Buy.  However, public house-building activity is expected to fall sharply – 10% in 2015 and 5.0% in 2016 – due to the negative impact of cuts to social rents and the extension of Right to Buy on housing association funding. 

Dr Francis continued:  “Infrastructure is also forecast to be one of the key drivers of construction growth over the next five years.  The government has a National Infrastructure Plan in place with a pipeline of projects across the UK worth £411 billion.  As a consequence, we forecast that infrastructure output will experience double-digit growth each year to the end of our forecast horizon in 2019.  It’s not all good news, however, as yet again we expect delays until 2018 for the main works on the nuclear power station Hinkley Point C.  In addition, due to concerns regarding planning and financing, we do not anticipate main works starting on HS2 before 2020.

“Our forecast growth of 21.7% by 2019 for construction has raised a key risk regarding the lack of skilled labour.  Employment in the UK construction industry is now 390,000 lower than at its 2008 peak.  So far, the lack of skilled labour has primarily affected the house-building sector.  As the wider industry activity picks up, however, this issue is likely to spread across the industry.  In the short-term, it is already putting upward pressure on costs.  In the medium-term, the forecast growth will not be possible without significant investment in skills.”