London: UK construction contracted for an eighth month in December, the longest period since the financial crisis, as political uncertainty and the general election subdued client demand.

IHS Markit’s index of activity fell to 44.4, falling short of the 45.9 level predicted by economists in a Bloomberg survey and remaining below the 50 level that indicates expansion.

Civil engineering shrank at its fastest pace since March 2009, while commercial work and homebuilding also dropped. Even so, companies’ year-ahead business outlook rebounded as firms suggested that greater clarity on Brexit could boost orders in 2020.

“The UK construction sector limped through the final quarter of 2019,” said Tim Moore, economics associate director at IHS Markit. “The forward-looking survey indicators provide some hope that the construction sector malaise will begin to recede in the coming months.”