The so-called "floor area index" measures trends in the level of usable floor space authorised in construction work and the latest data show that in both the European Union (EU) and the euro area, the floor area index has been rising over the past three years, after reaching its lowest point in 2014. A fall in the amount of usable floor area specified in new building permits can be an early warning of an impending economic crisis.
In the first quarter of 2018 the EU index was 29% above its value in the first quarter of 2015 and has reached its highest level since 2009. The euro area index has shown a greater increase, 40% higher in the first quarter of 2018 than its value in the first quarter of 2015, and is at its highest level since 2011. Nevertheless, the index levels for both the EU and the euro area are still lower than the highest levels reached in the fourth quarter of 2006.
The floor area index increased in most EU Member States between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2018. Over this period the index value has more than doubled in Hungary (+166%), Spain (+121%) and Ireland (106%). In contrast, the value of the index fell in four EU Member States between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2018: Croatia (-8%), United Kingdom (-8%), Estonia (-6%) and Latvia (-1%).