Northern Ireland Construction maintains upward trajectory despite short term volatility
Today the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) released the latest data on the value of construction output in Northern Ireland.
The latest Construction Output Statistics, covering Q4 2019, show that construction output in Northern Ireland decreased by 1.2% compared to Q3 2019, and decreased 1.3% compared to the previous year (Q4 2018). While construction output in Northern Ireland has been quite volatile on a quarterly basis – showing consistent fluctuations since early 2018 – the longer-term trend has been positive, with an upward trajectory since the 12 year low seen in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Repair and Maintenance was a big factor in the quarterly contraction with a -2.4% decrease, while new work increased by 2.6%. Infrastructure was the other major contracting area: it saw a significant quarterly (-18.1%) decrease, having seen a 19.4% increase in Q3 2019. In the medium-term infrastructure has been on a sharp upward trend since early 2018, and while the the return of the Northern Ireland Executive may facilitate more growth, with previously stalled projects hopefully now being advanced, it is likely that the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) will act antagonistically to this trend and cause projects to stall in the short term
In Q4 2019 ‘other work’ accounted for the largest share of construction activity in Northern Ireland at 37.2% of all output and showed an increase of 8.3% compared to Q3, and a 2% increase compared to Q4 2018. Housing output was down -1.5% on Q3, and 6.4% lower than Q4 2018.
Any certainty that the return of the Northern Ireland Executive has provided to the sector around the funding of public sector projects will now be diluted by the uncertainty that Coronavirus has wrought. While it is too early to measure the virus’ impact on the sector overall, the CIOB is already hearing from members what an immensely challenging time this is. In response the CIOB has set out a series of measures to support members and the wider industry during this difficult time. See here for more details.
The impact of the virus comes at a particularly delicate time for the Northern Ireland economy in general and the construction sector in particular, as the latest figures from the Northern Ireland Composite Economic index (NICEI), also released today, show that the construction sector contracted by 1.0% in Q4 2019.
Having been the highest contributor to the growth of the Northern Ireland economy in the Q3 2019, construction’s contribution fell to -0.1% in Q4 2019. This volatility is likely the result of the uncertainty caused by Brexit and the UK general election, both of which came to a head in Q4 2019.
Joseph Kilroy, Policy Manager for Ireland at the CIOB, commented: “While it is encouraging to see construction in Northern Ireland on a long-term upward trajectory, these quarterly figures are a reminder that there is no room for complacency. With the impact of the COVID-19 crisis working its way through the economy, measures to reduce the volatility in the construction sector, including a public a pipeline of well-planned projects and support for sector jobs, are more important than ever”
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