Activity flat as construction market continues to lag

Northern Ireland's construction sector continues to significantly lag behind the rest of the UK, according to the latest RICS and Tughans Construction Market Survey, with the absence of a pick-up in infrastructure activity the key source of concern.

Jim Sammon
Jim Sammon

The province trailed all other UK regions in the first quarter of the year in terms of overall workloads (+13% against a UK average of +28%), as well as a range of other key indicators, such as expectations for workloads, employment, and profit margins.

Private house building was the one relative bright spot, with a net balance of +26% of surveyors reporting a higher level of activity during the quarter.

In contrast, a net balance of 0% of local respondents reported growth in infrastructure workloads – making Northern Ireland the only region of the UK not to report growth in infrastructure activity.

“On the positive side, the latest survey points to overall growth in activity,” said RICS NI construction spokesman Jim Sammon.

“The main concern is the ongoing lack of infrastructure activity, with no growth in infrastructure workloads reported for the tenth consecutive quarter.

“The reality is that Northern Ireland simply cannot achieve the kind of economic growth that we want without investing significantly in our infrastructure. So we need to see a step-change in Northern Ireland’s approach to infrastructure investment.”

Michael McCord of Tughans said: “Overall, local construction businesses remain heavily dependent on work outside of Northern Ireland, according to the survey.”