"SPARSE and inconsistent" is how forecaster BCI Economics views the coming three months of construction activity.
The short-term forecast for Australia's construction sector from February to April shows $16.8 billion in total construction starts, a rise of 1 per cent on the preceding three months, BCI said.
November to January's figure was $16.7 billion. But the long-term trend suggests construction starts will fall by 2 per cent compared with a year earlier.
"Whilst there are individual pockets of strength, they are the cause of large-scale individual projects commencing rather than any strong overall market trend," the forecaster said. The figures sum up the state of building construction in Australia, "minuscule or no growth in both the three-month and 12-month trends".
BCI Media Group chief operating officer Damian Eastman said with the prospect of nine months of electioneering, sentiment was unlikely to change in the immediate future.
The short-term forecast for Victoria was for $3.1 billion in construction starts, down 19 per cent from the $3.9 billion in the previous three months (November to January).
The long-term trend shows total construction starts in Victoria are down 8 per cent year-on-year. But while the education sector was slowing, commercial projects were on the increase, up long-term by 21 per cent year-on-year.
Nationally, civil construction activity was still strong, BCI said, but there were signs of decline.
This year, both activity and starts were likely to peak and would begin to fall off by the end of the year, the group said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the seasonally adjusted estimate of total building work done fell 2.6 per cent to $19.2 billion nationally in the September quarter last year after rising 0.2 per cent from the previous quarter.
The trend estimate of the value of non-residential building work done fell 1 per cent.