Last month the construction industry was struggling to keep up with the demand as shortages of materials, subcontractors and skilled workers slowed growth, according to the latest construction purchasing managers index (PMI).
July PMI data compiled by IHS Markit and CIPS highlighted that the recovery in UK construction output lost momentum since June, with slower growth seen in all three main categories of work. House building remains the best-performing category, but reduced availability of subcontractors and disruption in material supplies was continuing to put upward pressure on prices.
With demand for construction materials continuing to outstrip supply, latest data signalled another steep increase in purchasing prices. Around 81% of the survey panel reported a rise in their average cost burdens during July, while only 1% signalled a decline.
The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI® Total Activity Index registered 58.7 in July, down sharply from June’s 24-year high of 66.3 but still well above the crucial 50.0 no-change threshold. The latest reading signalled the slowest overall increase in construction output since February.
Tim Moore, Economics Director at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey: “Long lead times for materials and shrinking sub-contractor availability were cited as factors holding back work on site. Around two-thirds of the survey panel experienced longer wait times for supplier deliveries in July, while just 2% reported an improvement since the previous month.
“Another rapid increase in purchasing costs was linked to global supply and demand imbalances, but many firms also noted that local issues had amplified inflationary pressures. These included a severe lack of haulage availability, continued reports of Brexit trade frictions, and greater shortages of contractors due to exceptionally strong demand.”
Duncan Brock, Group Director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: ” The pervasive weaknesses in supply chains along with a lack of staff and contractor availability were laid bare as construction lost some of its get-up-and-go.
“The rampant rise in prices for raw materials and transportation continued to be the construction’s heavy load along with historically long delivery times. Though there was a slight improvement in supplier performance from June’s record low, it was partly as a result of frustrated supply chain managers reining back on purchases that were unlikely to arrive when needed. Businesses were also unable to expand on staff capacity, where even the most prolific hiring periods since 2014 was insufficient for builders’ ability to complete work in hand.
“Faced with transport disruptions, shortages of essentials and Brexit delays, the initial spurt of activity this year is fast hitting the rocks. Building optimism was dampened to the lowest since January as it is difficult to foresee when all these challenges are likely to subside.”