03 June 2008 | Jake Kanter
Activity in the construction industry fell at its fastest ever rate last month and reached its lowest point since records began in April 1997.
According to the latest CIPS/NTC Purchasing Managers' Index for construction, where a figure below 50 represents contraction, activity in the sector registered 43.9 in May. It is a sharp drop from the 46.1 figure recorded in April and the lowest rating in the survey's 11-year history.
It is thought significant falls in the industry's sub-sectors were to blame for the downturn. Housing activity registered 32.7 compared with the previous month's figure of 40.3, while commercial activity fell to 43.6, down from April's 44.4.
But despite these falls, activity in civil engineering expanded, from the 48.2 registered in April, to reach 52.5 in May. However, this was still well below the 12-month average of 57.4.
There was also a sharp decline in new orders recording 45.9 in May, compared with 49.1 the month before. Staff levels rose slightly compared with April's 22-month low of 50.1, recording 50.2.
Input prices continued to expand, but at a slower rate than in April. The index recorded 71.8 in May compared with 73.9.
* Further coverage of PMI reports is available at http://www.supplymanagement.com/pmi