Statistics: Building trade lifts British growth rate

The UK's fastest growth in four years may be upgraded later this month after the construction sector recorded its best performance since 1963.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released revised figures for construction yesterday showing output of 8.6 per cent, up from an initial estimate of 6.6 per cent.

This was the strongest rate since the second quarter of 1963, when it was 19 per cent, and like then was driven by a rebound following an unusually harsh winter.

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The increase would add 0.1 per cent to the UK's gross domestic product growth rate in the second quarter – which at 1.1 per cent was already the strongest in four years.

If growth is upgraded to 1.2 per cent, it will be the strongest growth rate in the UK since the same figure was achieved in the first quarter of 2001.

But economists warned any further gains in growth after the second quarter were unlikely.

They said the growth seen in the second quarter would represent a peak in the rate of recovery.

JP Morgan economist Malcom Barr said: "After such a large gain in Q2, and with the Government cancelling some spending on public infrastructure, it would be foolhardy to expect another large gain in the next quarter."

Alan Clarke, UK economist at BNP Paribas, said there were good reasons for construction to be strong in the second quarter.

He said: "The snow had melted and the Government was spending in a final fling before the election.

"Will it last? I doubt it. It was a one-off snow melt boost."

Private housing work in the second quarter was 22 per cent higher than the previous quarter, and at the same level as at the end of 2008, while new infrastructure output was seven per cent higher than the previous quarter.

Public housing sector work rose significantly – with an 11 per cent rise on the previous quarter and a 62 per cent rise on the previous year.