GNP declined 1.6% in last quarter of ' 90 Index shows region did poorly in late '90

March 28, 1991|By Peter H. Frank

Nearly three months into the new year, the rottenness of 1990's final quarter is still showing.

The latest glimpse came yesterday thanks to the Grant Thornton Index, a rating system used to measure the economic health of 24 metropolitan areas -- 22 of which showed declines during the last three months of 1990.

According to the international accounting and management consulting firm, Baltimore and Washington took especially steep hits during the year, plunging more than the nation as a whole and ending at their lowest levels since the close of 1987.

Factory hours were down from the third quarter. Non-farm payrolls were down. The nation's money supply was down. And retail sales, though up slightly for the Christmas shopping season, were well below the level of a year earlier.

In all, the seven economic indicators measured by Grant Thornton showed either sluggish improvement or outright decline in the Baltimore area, said Morton D. Goldman, managing partner of Grant Thornton's Baltimore office.

But, he said, the news was not all bad -- given how the world can change in three months. "You ought to keep in mind this is fourth-quarter 1990 information when, at that time, the entire economy was holding its breath to find out what was happening in the Mideast," he said.

With some indications that housing starts have increased in this area, Mr. Goldman said he is hopeful that some of the indicators, such as the sale of durable goods and household products, could rebound by the third quarter of this year.

Using an index benchmark of January 1985, Baltimore ended the year at 108.7, down 0.65 points during the final three months of the year and well below the 110.5 rating at the close of 1989. Washington suffered a steeper drop, falling 1.10 points during the quarter to 109.2 at the end of 1990.

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