Saturday 23 March 2019

Housing fall slows construction activity, hits jobs

Joe Brennan

ACTIVITY in the Irish construction sector remained depressed in March as layoffs gathered pace, though there are signs that the overall slowdown may be levelling off, according to the latest reading of an Ulster Bank survey.

The bank's construction purchasing manager's index (PMI), a seasonally adjusted gauge of the performance of the sector, edged up to 36.6 last month from 35.0 in February.

A reading below 50 implies that the industry is contracting.

The PMI has only registered lower levels on three other occasions -- all within the previous three months -- in the history of the survey, which began in June 2000.

"The rate of decline in construction employment accelerated to a survey high. Employment has fallen sharply since last autumn, but has yet to show up in the official Central Statistics Office quarterly national household survey data," said Pat McArdle, chief economist at Ulster Bank.

"We expect the Q1 QNHS data to show a significant decline in construction employment."

Although figures from the Central Statistics office on Friday showed that employment in private firms in the construction industry fell 11.1pc in February from the same month last year, Mr McArdle noted that this does not give a complete picture, as it excludes small firms in the sector.

House-building remained the worst performing of the three areas of construction covered by the survey. Mr McArdle reiterated his view that house completions would fall to 45,000 units this year compared with 78,000 in 2007.

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