The biggest increase in commercial projects since 2007 helped buoy the sector, which has staged a steady recovery after being hit badly during the economic downturn.
The latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (Cips) and Markit dipped to 62.1 in December from November’s 62.6 – its highest level since August 2007 when the credit crunch was taking hold.
December’s reading was slightly ahead of analysts’ forecasts and well above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: “The decline merely signalled a modest easing in the rate of expansion from the surging pace of growth.”
Cips chief executive David Noble added: “Continued strong expansion marked an outstanding end to 2013 for construction, positioning the sector on a solid recovery path for 2014.”
The figures add to the picture of a sustained recovery, after data from the manufacturing sector on Thursday showed it managed its best quarterly performance in two-and-a-half years at the end of 2013, despite a slight fall in December’s reading.
The construction PMI figures showed housebuilding – a sub-sector buoyed by initiatives such as Help to Buy – remained the fastest-growing area in December, though it posted a slower pace of growth than November.
Work on commercial projects and civil engineering activity continued to grow strongly, while the majority of firms was optimistic about the coming year.