The bounce back in March, when construction output jumped by 3.9 per cent, came after a 0.3 per cent drop in February. The better than expected performance in March meant that for the quarter as a whole, output shrank by 1.1 per cent compared with the final three months of 2014, which was less than the 1.6 per cent decline that had been predicted by economists.
On an annual basis, construction output in March was 1.6 per cent had ahead of the same month a year earlier.
The overall quarterly fall was driven by a lack of new work coming on to the market. There was 1.7 per cent less new work, mainly as a result of a slackening off in January. For the quarter as a whole, the biggest decline was in public works (non-housing), which fell by 6.6 per cent. Private commercial work was down by three per cent and total housing work by 3.4 per cent during the three months.
However, public housing repair and maintenance work bucked the trend. It was up by 20 per cent during March, which helped to power the better statistics for the final month of the first quarter.
The figures showed that new housing building in March was up by 1.3 per cent and that the industry built more new private homes for the first time since September 2014. However, the poor performance during the first two months of the period meant that house building was down by 3.4 per cent for the quarter as a whole.
The better statistics for March follow separate data showing that house prices are beginning to rise again, shaking off the slowdown experienced in the second half of 2014 following the introduction of tighter criteria for mortgage lending.