House building crash helped spark sudden rise in jobless figures...
HOUSE building crashed after the Christmas holidays last year, new CSO figures show -- helping to explain the sudden rise in unemployment during 2008.
Output in house construction was at the lowest level since the current statistics began in 2000. It was also 20pc less than the previous low point eight years before. House building slumped more than l30pc on the previous quarter, as builders left sites closed after the New Year break. This left the volume of output down 38pc on the same period of 2007. The value of houses built was down 35pc, suggesting little change in prices over the 12 months.
Non-residential building was up almost 9pc compared with 2007, and the value of the buildings was 14pc greater. This gain left total construction down almost 22pc on the previous year.
But Rossa White, economist at Davy Research, said the figures seemed to be saying that non-house building was already slowing fast in 2007.
"That is sooner than we might have expected, given that it takes longer to build an office block than a housing estate," he said.
"We would still expect the brunt of that to be felt next year. Either way, the construction numbers are going to get worse."
Dermot O'Leary, chief economist atGoodbody Stockbrokers, said there was usually a two-year lag between a fall in house building and one in commercial building. "This is a shoe which has to drop," he said.
The figures show that Irish building was enduring the biggest slump in the EU during the first three months of the year. Only Hungary , with a 19pc fall, came close to Ireland's 22pc drop. Building in Spain, which also had a huge construction boom, was down 7pc in the period.
Construction booms were still going on in Romania and Slovenia, where output was up more than 30pc. Most of the eastern member state still had strong construction output, with most shopping gains of around 13pc.
Findland's 10.6pc growth was by far the highest in the pre-enlargement EU-15, while output grew 2.2pc in Britian.
Brendan Keenan - Irish Independent