The UK construction industry continued to gain momentum in May, according to S&P Global’s latest UK construction Purchasing Managers Index (PMI).

The seasonal index, which tracks changes in total industry activity, has shown consistent signs of encouragement, publishing increased output for the last three months. This includes notably strong performance in April, which saw activity grow at its fastest rate in two years.

What makes the statistics particularly interesting, is that for the first time since May 2022, all three monitored construction categories — housing, commercial and civil engineering — were up in terms of activity. This applies to both new projects and the continuation of previously delayed work. 

S&P cited improved supply chain conditions and good stock availability as key factors behind the increased output, both of which have helped to slow the cost of inflation. This will come as welcome news to an industry which has been plagued by soaring material costs and shortages for well over a year now. 

How has the increased activity affected employment opportunities? 

With increased workloads, construction firms also stepped up employment throughout May for the first time in five months, marking the fastest rise since September 2023. 

This, combined with the CITB’s latest predictions that more than 250,000 new recruits will be needed to meet the UK’s expected construction output by 2028 — with particular demand across private housing, infrastructure and repair and maintenance — is reason for potential candidates to be optimistic. 

AI’s role in the industry

New research commissioned by artificial intelligence business, IFS (via PBCToday), has found that the majority of UK construction bosses have high expectations for the impact of AI in the industry, and that 68% of leaders believed that the sector was adopting it faster than others. 

However, while there is a willingness to embrace this emerging technology in the not-so-distant future, without proper training, construction faces a major challenge when it comes to actually realising its full potential.

More than one third of bosses rate their team’s AI skills as just ‘passable’, while over a quarter admit they have no plans to upskill in this area, suggesting a significant shift in mindset is still required if the sector actually wants to meet these aspirations.