Optimism at the outlook for the construction market has returned to its highest level since the start of the credit crunch in August 2007, according to a survey of purchasing managers. Actual orders by house builders have come within a whisker of growth, having been in unremitting decline since November 2007.

Yesterday’s Cips/Markit survey adds to other positive recent indicators for the construction sector, in particular a slowdown in the decline of the main house price indices.

However, the purchasing managers’ index, in which any figure below 50 indicates a contraction, still remains at the historically low level of 45.9. Until the downturn hit in March 2008 the index had not contracted since January 1999.

Roy Ayliffe, director at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, said: “After appearing to be in freefall in February, we are starting to see the construction economy show some signs of life and steer itself back on to the road of recovery [but] it’s still some way from making a full return to health.”

Financial Times, Daily Telegraph