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Last edited 15 Feb 2021
December 2020 GDP figures show construction vulnerable
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has responded to GDP figures published on 12 February 2021 by the ONS (Office for National Statistics). The figures include data for December 2020, detailing a picture of the full year’s growth.
 December 2020 downturn
The figures show that construction output fell by 2.9% in December 2020, following seven months of consecutive growth. Despite the industry remaining broadly open, all types of work in the sector saw a decline as businesses continued to adhere to social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic along with site shutdowns as part of the Christmas period.
The decline was driven by falls in both private new housing and private commercial (3% and 6%respectively). This was due to falls in both new work (3.8%) and repair and maintenance (1.5%) which had been growing steadily since the first initial lockdown in March 2020.
 Growth in October and November 2020
Due to steady growth between October and November 2020, quarterly construction output grew by 4.6% compared to the previous quarter. This was driven by growth in new work and repair and maintenance (4% and 5.5% respectively).
The increase in new work in Quarter 4 2020 is attributed to quarterly growth in all new work sectors (other than private commercial, which decreased by 1.6%). The increase in repair and maintenance was largely due to non-housing repair and maintenance - the sudden drop of which in December 2020 caused the monthly output to shrink for the first time since May 2020.
 Changes ahead
Throughout 2020, the construction industry remained resilient and worked tirelessly to help tackle the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the building of new hospitals and facilities, and keeping people in employment. It is thought that 2021 will bring its own challenges for construction businesses, including the introduction of the VAT Reverse Charge, changes to IR35 and fundamental reform to the building safety regime.
As the world’s largest and most influential professional body for construction management, CIOB will continue to work with industry and partner bodies to understand how these issues will affect the industry and represent these views to Government to ensure construction is at the heart of the economic recovery.
Eddie Tuttle, Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research at the CIOB, said: “The fall in construction output in December, highlighted in the latest ONS figures, shows that the construction industry is still vulnerable to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the industry has rebounded since the first national lockdown last year, growth is beginning to slow. The Government has been clear that the construction industry has a key role to play in supporting the UK economy to weather the storm, however we are worried that forthcoming measures will impede the industry’s ability to help ‘build back better’. CIOB is encouraging the Government to consider extending the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday and to immediately withdraw the VAT reverse charge to support fragile businesses through this incredibly challenging time.”
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