THE UK's construction industry has experienced its second-highest month of growth in more than six years, according to a new report.
The sector continued to expand in December with strong increases in output, new orders and jobs.
A report from the closely-watched Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) said firms created more new posts for the seventh consecutive month in the lead up to Christmas, representing the longest continuous period of job creation for about five-and-a-half years.
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Construction companies also reported the fastest rise in sub-contractor use since April 2004.
The report revealed a reading of 62.1 for the sector, slightly down from November's 75-month peak of 62.6, though the figure is well above the 50 mark used to signify growth.
It said the continued strength in construction was helped by eight months of output growth in the UK market, with residential work increasing and commercial projects rising at their steepest rate since August 2007.
The survey added civil engineering activity has also increased, with construction firms reporting higher spending in December, boosted by improved business conditions and greater confidence.
Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit and author of the report, said the sector was showing real and positive signs of growth.
He said: “The latest survey highlights that construction companies enter 2014 with the wind in their sails.
“Most encouragingly, the improving UK economic outlook is helping boost private sector spending patterns, meaning the construction recovery has started to broaden out from housing demand and infrastructure projects to include strong growth in commercial building work.
“More than half of all survey respondents anticipate increased output levels during the course of 2014, which is up sharply from one-in-three construction firms that expected growth at the same time one year ago.
“Stronger growth expectations and fuller order books are continuing to fuel job creation in the construction sector.
“Higher employment numbers have now been reported for seven successive months, and these efforts to meet a sudden turnaround in UK construction demand should help keep staffing levels moving strongly upwards into 2014.”
The report comes after a survey revealed the UK's manufacturing sector remained close to a 22-year high, with strengthening domestic markets and new export orders helping output rise for a ninth successive month.