02 April 2009 | Jake Kanter
Activity in the construction industry looked slightly more positive in March following February's record low, but still contracted severely last month.
According to the latest CIPS/Markit UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index, where a figure below 50 represents contraction, activity in the sector was at 30.9 last month.
It was an improvement on the survey low of 27.8 recorded in February.
But the figure was still well below the 47.1 registered at the same time last year.
The three main sub-sectors - housing, commercial and civil engineering - all continued to contract severely last month, but there were some signs of improvement. Commercial activity climbed above its record low in February and housing activity also rose slightly.
Employment activity declined at a record rate last month, falling from 32.6 in February to hit 30.7. Many companies reported a rise in redundancies and had postponed recruitment until trading conditions improved. The employment figure in March last year was 52.4.
New orders continued to fall in March, but at a slower rate than the month before. Firms reported dramatic cuts in clients' budgets and an increasingly competitive market.
Input prices also fell last month, hitting a new survey low, reflecting weaker demand for fuel and other commodities on world markets.