State of Trade Survey 2018 Q1

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Construction product manufacturers reported a weak start to 2018, as poor weather conditions at the end of February and beginning of March weighed on activity. On the heavy side, 15% of firms reported a decrease in sales in Q1, marking a second successive quarter of decline and the weakest balance since 2013 Q1. On the light side, no firms reported a rise in sales during the quarter, down from 50% in Q4. This echoes recent survey data from Markit/CIPS, which showed that in March, construction output declined at its fastest pace since July 2016. Despite an uncertain economic outlook and the falls in new construction orders for major sectors such as commercial, product manufacturers' expectations for sales growth over the next year improved, suggesting only a temporary weather-related decline in Q1. 37% of heavy side and 16% of light side manufacturers anticipated a rise in sales over the next 12 months. Despite this, employment data was mixed in Q1, with light side firms reporting the weakest balance in nearly five years.

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