Building and Constructing

COVID-19 still impacting construction sector

Site shutdown sees building activity stall for the third month in a row

Construction activity declined for the third month running in March as most building sites remained shuttered due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Activity across all sub-sectors fell sharply, according to Ulster Bank’s monthly measure of activity in the sector, but the pace of decline eased somewhat relative to the extreme weakness registered in January and February.

The bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index is designed to track changes in total construction activity on a scale of 1 to 100.

It remained well below the 50-breakeven point in March.

However, at 30.9, it was up from February’s reading of 27.

There was increasing confidence among firms that the coming year will see an expansion in activity, with an end to the lockdown expected and the subsequent reopening of sites as well as a release of pent-up demand.

Construction of housing is due to pick back up from today from the very low level of activity permitted in recent months.

Up to 20,000 construction workers to return to sites

Up to 20,000 construction workers will return to work on residential, early-learning, and childcare sites around the country today as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

But there continues to be frustration within the industry that building work in the remaining parts of the sector that remain stalled cannot yet resume.

Much construction activity has been stopped since January 8.

Only work on essential health, social housing, housing adaptation grant, critical transport and utility infrastructure, education, certain foreign direct investment-related, and nearly completed home projects was allowed to continue.

As a result, last week nearly 53,000 construction workers were in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, down from nearly 60,000 at the start of March.

However, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) says frustration remains that restrictions will persist for the remainder of the sector until May 4, keeping an additional 20,000 construction workers out of work.

From that date, the Government has said it will consider allowing the rest of the sites to reopen subject to prevailing health conditions at the time.


Irish mortgage rates still second highest in eurozone – Central Bank

Rates on Irish mortgages remain the second highest in the euro area, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank:

In February, the average rate on new mortgage agreements was 2.79%.

This compares to the euro area average of 1.27%.

This rate was unchanged compared to the previous month but was 0.12% lower than the average a year ago.

The average on fixed-rate mortgages was 2.65%.

Fixed-rate mortgages account for 82% of all mortgages now issued.

The average variable rate was 3.4%.

The volume of mortgages issued in February was 7% higher than in February 2020.

It also increased by 23% on the volume issued in January.

For more info and Covid-19 updates, visit the Mark Kennedy & Co news page.