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The ONS announced last week that construction output in the first quarter of the year was 2.4% below the level seen in the final quarter of last year; putting the total volume of construction output at the lowest level since the final quarter of 1998. Compared to the final quarter of last year the volume of new work in the industry declined by 3.2%, the largest decline was in new other public sector work, which declined by 7.5% over the same period. Declines in the volume of new work were also recorded across the other sectors tracked in the ONS release; both private and public housing output were down by 4% each, output of new infrastructure work was down 3% and private commercial and industrial new work saw output volumes down 1% and 2% respectively. Repair, maintenance and improvement work saw shallower declines than new work during the period, down 1% from the final quarter of last year. Declines were recorded across all sectors apart from private housing RM&I for which the volume of work increased by 0.4%. Compared to the first quarter of 2012, the volume of output of new work was 8% lower and the value of RM&I was 4% lower. The ONS also announced the release of a new seasonally adjusted monthly series of construction output later this year; the new series will allow more accurate month-on-month comparisons of the construction output data as well as changes designed to improve the accuracy of the volume measures. ONS construction data has come under increased scrutiny in the past twelve months as questions about their accuracy and reliability have been raised. This could mark the first of a number of planned changes to the way that the official construction statistics are measured and reported; the future of the ONS new orders data is also up for discussion, with the result of a public consultation as to their future publication scheduled for June this year.

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