Fall in construction work may dent economy

Prashant Mehra
(Australian Associated Press)

Construction work dropped in the three months to March, which could have an impact on economic growth.

The value of construction work done fell 0.7 per cent in the March quarter to $46.4 billion, a slightly sharper fall than expected, and was down 7.2 per cent in the year to March.

The biggest drag was housing construction, down 4.7 per cent in the quarter, as developers put the brakes on residential projects, likely due to concerns of oversupply.

“Overall, construction fell further to the lowest level since 2011,” UBS economist George Tharenou said.

“While the fall was largely as expected, the sharp retracement of housing was a negative surprise.”

National Australia Bank Tapas Strickland said that could have an impact on March quarter economic growth.

“The topping out of apartment construction is an important element of the outlook for growth and interest rates as it has been a key driver of employment growth in the economy to date,” he said.

“Along with soft partial data to date, there is a real risk that Q1 GDP could print a flat or even a small negative outcome.”

There was a stronger-than-expected rise of 2.2 per cent in engineering construction in the March quarter, the first increase for seven quarters.

Economists said this possibly indicates some large public works projects in the eastern states are starting to offset the completion of mining projects.


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