–NS Accepts Uncertainty Over Responses To Construction Output Surveys

LONDON (MNI) – Small and medium sized construction firms saw a much
sharper fall in output in Q1 than their larger brethren, helping explain
some of the discrepancy between the broadly based official construction
data and the private sector surveys, according to the Office for
National Statistics.

The ONS figures show the smallest construction firms saw output
fall by 9.7% in current prices in Q1 compared to Q4, while the next
smallest band of firms saw it fall by 9.0%. The largest firms, however,
saw output drop by only 4.3% over the same period.

The ONS reworked its figures, using the simple up/down output
balances used in private sector surveys. It found the apparent
discrepancies between their own, much criticised, data which have
highlighted construction weakness and the more robust private sector
surveys were less marked.

On the ONS figures 52% of the largest firms reported an increase in
output in Q1 from Q4 and 48% a decrease, giving a plus 4 percentage
point balance – similar to the findings of private sector surveys.

The ONS is, however, still working on a series of potential
improvements to its construction data.

The statistics office, however, rejected the charge that changes to
its construction data series in January 2010 had introduced any systemic

–London bureau: 0044 20 7862 7491; email: drobinson@marketnews.com

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