British construction activity declined from 52.6pc in February to 39.3 in March—its lowest level since April 2009—according to an April 6 survey by IHS Markit/CIPS on April 6.
A reading of 50 denotes the level that separates contraction from expansion, indicating that most survey respondents experienced a significant deterioration in activity upon adoption of stringent stay-at-home and social distancing orders to restrict the COVID-19 outbreak.
While the British government repealed stricter measures on local construction activity, many firms had furloughed some of the sector’s 2.4mn workers at their fastest pace since 2010 with approximately half of all construction sites thought to have closed.
Of the construction categories, the UK’s civil engineering and commercial sectors suffered the most pronounced declines, falling to level 35 in March, while residential activity fell at a comparatively modest pace to 46.6.
However, the UK’s construction decline was milder compared to Italy’s corresponding March reading of 15.9, possibly reflecting the survey window of March 12-30, which straddled the closure of non-essential services on March 23.
Market participants fully expect conditions to worsen this month, with construction supply chains likely to focus only on essential activities like infrastructure maintenance, safety-critical remedial work, and support for public services in the weeks and months ahead.