Recession hammers building industry activity drops to 10-year low Building permits fall in Baltimore region

November 26, 1991|By David Conn

Building activity in the Baltimore region reached its lowest level in nearly a decade last month, as lower interest rates failed to spark a resurgence in the construction industry, according to a report released yesterday.

The Baltimore Regional Council of Governments reported that the number of residential building permits issued in Baltimore and its five surrounding counties fell about 22.5 percent during both October and the first 10 months of the year, compared with the same periods last year.

The value of new residential construction was down 13.5 percent last month, to $66.4 million, and decreased 9.2 percent, to $698.7 million, in the first 10 months of the year. The non-residential sector, which includes churches, hospitals, schools and government buildings, experienced a 67.3 percent decline in the value of construction activity last month.

Non-residential additions, alterations and repairs rose, with $50.8 million of activity in October, up from $41.9 million last year. The year-to-date value of such construction rose less than 1 percent in the first 10 months of this year, with $498.0 million of building activity.

The building report "is consistent with virtually every other national and local indicator we've seen in the past two months and gives cold comfort to those who wish that we are in a recovery, including myself," said Michael Conte, director of the University of Baltimore's Center for Business and Economic Studies.

In the early months of this year, building activity was about 25 percent to 30 percent down from last year, Mr. Conte said, but it gradually improved until it was down only about 10 percent in late summer.

But in the last few months the industry has turned down again, he said.

"The builders are taking their cues from sales," Mr. Conte said. "We probably have virtually no activity any more in [speculative construction] on the residential side. On the commercial side, we have neither 'spec' nor build-to-suit."

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