02 April 2004 | Gareth Mytton
UK construction activity grew in March for the sixty-second consecutive month, according to the latest PMI figures.
The headline purchasing managers' index (PMI) - a composite indicator of economic conditions compiled by CIPS and NTC Research - slipped marginally to 58.1, from 58.3 in February.
Thirty per cent of companies said activity was higher than the previous month, with most linking growth to the start of work on previously agreed contracts.
Commercial building firms again reported the fastest growth (60.5), followed by housing (up to 58.3) and civil engineering (53.6).
To meet another monthly rise in orders, companies took on more staff, with many firms saying it was necessary before they could start work on new contracts. They also used subcontractors more, with shortages reported in eight categories.
As the new work started, companies increased their quantities of purchases (57.8), but suppliers' delivery times worsened. Lintels, timber and office furniture were down in price, but 16 items got more expensive over the month, as the input prices index rose to 62. Like manufacturers, builders also pointed to the higher price of steel.