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CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY IN UTAH STAYS STRONG

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As a bellwether of the Utah economy, construction in Utah remained strong from April to June, and the outlook for the remainder of 1994 looks good.

This word comes from Austin Sargent, research analyst in the University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research, in a review of construction activity in Utah for the second quarter of 1994."Continued economic growth, an expanding population, increased employment and low mortgage interest rates continued to fuel the expansion of the construction activity," Sargent said. This combination of factors has driven the total value of construction to $1.3 billion, a 32.8 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

The review said residential construction activity in the three-month period was vigorous in spite of the rate of growth slowing because of rising home mortgage interest rates.

The number of dwelling units authorized in the period increased 24.3 percent to 10,174, the highest midyear figure since 1977 and 1978. The dollar value of residential construction increased 30.5 percent to $896 million through the first six months of the year.

Sargent said single-family construction in the three months increased 22.6 percent to 7,346 units, while multifamily units increased 28.5 percent to 2,267 units. The number of mobile homes and cabins authorized increased by 561 units, a 31.1 percent increase.

The value of nonresidential construction in the period was $307.5 million, a 36.8 percent increase over the 1993 figures. Most of the nonresidential construction activity centers along the Wasatch Front.

Although construction activity during the remainder of 1994 will remain above 1993 levels, the rate of growth will slow a little, the review said. "Residential construction will continue to grow, but with rising mortgage interest rates and improved residential construction activity in California, the rate of increase will slow considerably," Sargent said.

The demand for new houses will continue to be the strongest along the Wasatch Front and in the southwestern part of the state and the demand for multifamily units should remain strong because vacancy rates are very low.

Sargent said nonresidential activity will follow the same pattern as residential construction activity. As interest rates increase and the prospects of an improving economic situation along the West Coast become a reality, the rate of expansion in the Intermountain Area will slow down.

He cited Kennecott's expansion and renovation project and expansion of the Salt Palace Convention Center as examples of a continuing construction boom.