By Jonathan Davies

Growth in the UK's construction industry raced ahead at its fastest rate for seven months in August, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) increased to 64, up from 62.4 in July. Any figure above 50 indicates growth but the rise comes as a particular surprise to economists who predicted a fall in August.

The figure of 64 came despite a shortage of supplies and the slowest delivery times since 1997.

"The sector is struggling to find enough skilled tradesmen to keep pace with new work and the labour market will continue to put pressure on costs until the next wave of apprentices begin to enter the jobs market," said David Noble, group chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply.

The residential housing, commercial building and civil engineering activity aspects of the UK construction sector all saw strong rises.

But the report also indicated that despite the strong growth, house building was still below the level needed to meet the demand for new homes.

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