Construction activity grows for sixth month in a row
Growth in construction activity accelerated in October, for the sixth month in a row, Ulster Bank’s latest Purchasing Managers’ Index shows.
But construction firms said Brexit, Covid and shortages of delivery drivers and materials contributed to a record lengthening of delivery times and record growth in input costs.
The Ulster Bank Construction PMI rose to 56.9 in October from 56.3 in September. Index readings above 50 signal an increase in activity on the previous month and readings below 50 signal a decrease.
Ulster Bank said the expansion in overall activity was led by a sharp and accelerated rise in work on commercial projects.
But the rate of growth in housing activity continued to soften from May’s record. While civil engineering activity fell, the reduction was only slight, the bank added.
Simon Barry, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said that having eased over the summer months after the post-lockdown jump back in activity in the second quarter, the headline PMI rose slightly last month.
He said this showed a modest re-acceleration in the pace of overall construction activity growth at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Mr Barry said that strong demand for construction services was also evident in further sizeable gains in both new orders and employment, with new business and staffing levels both recording a seventh month of expansion in a row.
“But the October results highlight that supply-chain disruptions remain a highly problematic headwind for Irish construction firms. Respondents cited Brexit, Covid-disruption and shortages of delivery drivers and materials as factors which contributed to a record lengthening of delivery times and record growth in input costs,” the economist said.
“Nonetheless, despite such headwinds, firms remain confident about the 12-month ahead outlook. Sentiment ticked up from September and was again above long-run average levels, reflecting expectations that the ongoing release of pent-up demand will continue to support activity growth in the coming year,” he added.
Construction firms also said that input price inflation hit a fresh record in October as the supply issues fed through to higher costs. Some 78% of respondents indicated that their input prices had increased over the month.
Today’s index also reveals that building companies expanded both their staffing levels and input buying at marked rates.
Ulster Bank said the rate of job creation quickened slightly, with some firms reportedly taking on new apprentices. Although the rate of increase in purchasing activity eased to a six-month low, it remained strong in the context of historical data, the bank added.