Building output was boosted by sustained rise in new work across the board according to the Construction Purchasing Managers index for March.

The latest reading of 59.1 was unchanged from February and well above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. The index revealed the joint-fastest rate of output growth since June 2021 boosted by the highest level of new orders since August last year.

Commercial work was the best-performing segment with an index reading of 60.8 due to projects restarting following the roll back of pandemic restrictions.

Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply group director Duncan Brock said: “But residential building became the laggard of the pack as affordability concerns were a factor in holding back progress particularly in new housing and refurbishment work.”

Recoveries in residential work lost momentum in March with a reading of 54.9 and 56.3 for civil engineering.

Deliver wait times climb

A third of supply chain managers reported longer wait times for deliveries and sharp inflation rises as transport and raw material cost went up. The overall rate of input price inflation accelerated sharply since February and was the highest for six months.

“Construction companies are braced for more disruption on the horizon as a result of the Ukraine conflict. The rise in purchasing demand fed into higher costs for materials already in short supply as energy hikes also impacted on business costs,” said Mr Brock.

Input buying rose at the steepest pace since July 2021, driven by a combination of stronger demand and efforts to build stocks where possible.

S&P Global economics director Tim Moore, whose company compiles the survey, said: “Business optimism slipped to its lowest since October 2020 on concerns that clients will cut back spending in response to rising prices and heightened economic uncertainty.”

Property finance intermediary Hank Zarihs Associates said despite economic uncertainty tender opportunities and resilient customer demand meant development finance lenders were keen to offer construction loans to builders.

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