Infrastructure and transport report

Relative increase in construction output

New work drove a small quarterly increase in construction output at the end of 2023 but annual output declined by 1.4 per cent.

The total volume of construction output increased by 0.8 per cent in Q4 2023 when compared with Q3 the increase somewhat masks a general decrease in output over the year.

Over the course of 2023, increases in output for repair and maintenance (+6.5 per cent), infrastructure (+2.6 per cent), and other work (6.7 per cent), were overshadowed by an annual decrease of new work (-5.5 per cent, including a 12.9 per cent fall in housing.

The Quarterly Construction Enquiry is a statutory survey of construction firms operating in Northern Ireland. The quarter-on-quarter change provides the most recent measure of how the construction output is changing.

Each calendar quarter is a sample of approximately 750 construction firms who are asked to provide details of the value of construction activity they have undertaken in the specified period. The survey also covers public sector organisations which carry out their own construction activity.

The latest results suggest that construction output at the end of 2023 was 6.1 per cent above the pre-pandemic level seen in quarter 4 2019 and 56.4 per cent above the series low in quarter 2 2020.

The increase in overall output in quarter 4 has been driven by 0.2 per cent increase in new work, which accounted for three-fifths of all construction output. Historically, new work has been the largest sub-component of overall construction output.

However, this was offset by a 2.1 per cent decrease in repair and maintenance, which accounted for over one-third of all construction output. Repair and maintenance consists of all on-site work not defined as new construction, for example, housing conversions, extensions, and improvements.

In regard to housing output, the volume decreased by 6.6 per cent over the quarter and 12.9 per cent over the year. Housing output is defined as “all public and private sector construction activity associated with housing”.

Furthermore, infrastructure construction activity increased by 1.6 per cent and the other work subsectors increased by 2 per cent.

Overall, the findings highlight that despite having an overall annual decrease of 1.4 per cent, construction output in Northern Ireland is continuing to improve in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

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