March 2021 saw the sharpest rise in construction output in the UK since September 2014, a sure sign that the industry as a whole has bounced back better than many expected in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns faced in 2020. Growth in commercial construction, civil engineering and house-building projects all came together to add to a strong industry-wide performance in the most recentlypublished construction purchasing index. This indicates how strong contract plant hire in the UK continues to be, furnishing these many construction projects with high-quality contract plant hire and plant sales services.

What is the construction purchasing index? 

The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Construction Purchasing Manager’s Index is a diffusion index that takes into account the results of surveys from construction firms based around the entire country. Any reading that is above a score of fifty suggests that there has been a recent expansion in the construction sector. Anything below fifty suggest that the construction sector is in fact, in contraction. It is an important index to keep an eye on for traders and policymakers, as purchasing managers are those with the early data and information about the performance of an individual company and this can have an impact on expected outcomes over the coming months and years. 

What were theindex scores for March 2021?

The HIS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Total Activity Index registered a score of 61.7 in March this year. This was an impressive rise from the score of 53.3 that was registered in February. This is the highest score on the index since September 2014. The score can be broken down into different categories, with housebuilding scoring 64.0 as the highest performing of all the categories. Growth in this sector is the fastest since July 2020, whilst commercial construction and civil engineering were both not far behind scoring 62.7 and 58.0 respectively.

What do these index results mean?

There was genuine worry last year when the first major lockdown was announced in the UK at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world was turned upside down overnight and our entire way of working was changed. Obviously, many construction projects remained open, especially those working on essential projects, but there were many projects that were delayed or put off indefinitely and months of uncertainty was bound to have an impact on the economy as a whole.

These results and the growth of the sector indicate that things are getting better and not at such a slow rate as many worried. There has been a mobilisation of projects that were delayed last year, including many projects in the leisure and hospitality sectors, as well as with office developments. Major infrastructure projects have been ramped up since the start of the year and there is a much greater level of spending being confirmed on residential construction again, as house sales start to rise. All of this is great news for the supporting streams that work within the construction sector, such as contract plant hire companies and the rallying of the workforce contracted on all of these projects. It’s a good time in the industry again and hopefully things will continue that way.