If you are one of those unfortunate souls who are finally packing a much-packed bag and leaving your job for good in Debenhams in five or six weeks time (see story below), you could do little better than to plan a future in construction. Sure, it might meant that your once pared and shiny nails will get dirt under them, but at least you will have a job, and this one will be building the future of a nation rather than dressing it in third-rate clothing.
Those who have not been legally permitted to leave their homes for the last three months have, apparently, become determined to extend and upgrade them. Building activity rose last month at the fastest pace since 2014 as workloads increased and stalled projects were restarted. This includes Tracee's auntie Grace who is finally turning her lean-to into a lean-fro after six years of being forced to pee in a bucket. Her mate Ron turned up on Tuesday with ten pieces of ply and a bucket of bricks and is already standing back admiring his own work.
There is such a thing as a purchasing managers’ index for construction and the one in February easily beat expectations, jumping to 61.7 from 53.3. Do we have to remind you that readings above 50 indicate 'growth', even if you still weigh out your flour in imperial measures? Everywhere you look cranes are popping up and builders can be seen grouped outside residential properties sucking their teeth, staring wistfully at holes and saying "That'll need six four-be-twos and five six-be-threes ..." Then there are those who are up ladders and cutting up MDF panels in preparation for the big re-opening of England on Monday. Britain is dancing to the twang of saws and bang of hammers.
Tim Moore is the economics director at IHS Markit, which compiles the purchasing managers' index and he decided to trial the first use of the phrase 'halo effect' in his vocabulary, saying: “The increasingly optimistic UK economic outlook has created a halo effect on construction demand and the perceived viability of new projects.”
"How did it sound?" he whispered out of the corner of his mouth to an adoring audience.
"It worked well, Tim."
All of this construction work is already starting to filter through to the supply chain. Construction outfits and builders merchants have signalled a sharp increase in purchasing volumes in response to greater workloads, tattoo parlours have seen a growing demand for poorly scripted quasi-mandarin neck inkings and there is a shortage of custard creams in many parts of northern England.
The building trade has witnessed the steepest inflationary rise in raw materials and other construction items since August 2008 at the height of the last commodity price cycle, which could be called a 'spanner in the works', but such an item can't be bought for love nor money, so great is the demand for this type of tool.