Britain's construction industry expanded last month for the first time since August, albeit only slightly, according to a survey on Friday that added to signs of improvement in the economy after a recession in the second half of 2023.

The S&P Global UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 50.2 in March from 49.7 in February - rising above the 50-point growth threshold for the first time in seven months.

The survey's gauges of housebuilding, commercial work and civil engineering all rose, though only the last showed a return to outright growth.

Friday's PMI chimed with other business surveys that suggest Britain's economy returned to weak growth in early 2024 after its modest downturn in the final two quarters of last year.

Survey compiler S&P Global said the PMI signalled further growth ahead for Britain's construction firms.

"The near-term outlook for construction workloads appears increasingly favourable as order books improved again in March and to the greatest extent for just under one year," Tim Moore, economics director at S&P Global, said.

Easing borrowing costs also offered a boost, S&P said, as lenders anticipate about 0.75 percentage points of cuts in interest rates by the BoE later this year.

Costs faced by British construction companies increased in March at the slowest pace for three months, while employment contracted for a third straight month.

"Staff hiring was a weak spot for the construction sector in March amid lingering concerns about margin pressures and continued risk aversion among major clients," Moore said.

The all-sector PMI, which bundles the week's surveys for the services, manufacturing and construction sectors, inched down to 52.6 from February's nine-month high of 52.7. (Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Hugh Lawson)