Mixed news from Builders’ Conference

After more than 18 months of unbroken and unprecedented stability, the fluctuations in demand experienced over the past three months have been strange. That’s according to data collected by Builders’ Conference on behalf of Build UK.

Against a backdrop of political upheaval and economic uncertainty, the very fact that the sector emerged from Q3 down only 12% by value compared to Q2, shows a possible new-found resilience. The sector seems to be coping admirably at the moment with a fluctuating and unpredictable marketplace. It could have been different. Having reported an upbeat 613 individual contracts valued at a combined £4.7 billion in July, the results in August felt hugely disappointing.

A monthly total of just £3.3 billion split across 513 individual contracts carried with it a sense of foreboding. However, September rode to the rescue. And even as the monthly calendar flipped to October and the beginning of a 31-day countdown to what was anticipated might at last be Brexit, the UK construction sector still had much to smile about. Buoyed by the award of the latest tranche of HS2-related works, construction contracts researched by Builders’ Conference passed £6 billion in September, eventually notching up a monthly total of £6.5 billion.

Although Q3 fall recorded a 12% dip in the value of construction contracts awarded, more ominous was the 23% decline in the number of contract awards – down to 1,669 in the quarter. However, once again, context is everything, with the first three quarters of 2019 representing a 28% increase in value of contracts and 9% increase in number compared to the same period in 2018.