The ONS published its preliminary estimate for GDP growth in the first three months of 2018. This found that growth that quarter was a stuttering 0.1 per cent.
The figure is slower than the already-modest 0.4 per cent growth seen in the last three months of 2017. The difference between the two is easy to account for. Construction output fell by 3.3 per cent. Compared with the same three months a year earlier, growth in non-construction GDP was actually faster in the January to March 2018 period than it was in October to December.
Construction is quite volatile from quarter to quarter, and construction not done in one quarter tends to be caught up later. There’s a pretty good chance that will happen this time as well, with construction adding 0.2 or 0.3 percentage point to growth in the period to June or to September. I’d guess that we’ll see about 0.6-0.7 per cent growth for one of those three-month periods.
Some have claimed that the drop in construction was down to the snow in late February and March. The ONS didn’t altogether reject this theory, saying there was some evidence of a snow effect. But it did point out that construction was down right across the quarter, including in periods when there wasn’t snow.
This is only the preliminary assessment, and there must be a fair chance the ONS will revise its view of the impact of snow. For instance, the National House Building Council claims that 30 days of housebuilding construction were lost due to the snow.