The roots of the most recent recession certainly lie in the speculation that fueled a construction boom. Past and present experience reveal that housing bubbles collapse slowly. Now we're almost three years past the official end of the recession (June 2009). Plus, preliminary 2011 construction permit numbers are now available (from the Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research). So, it seems like a good time to look just where Utah stands.
Currently, construction employment in Utah is up almost 6 percent from a year ago--one sign that the industry is recovering. In recent years, public projects kept Utah's construction employment base an even greater collapse. However, this permitting data shows the private side of the picture.
As you can see from the visualization below, new nonresidential construction improved at encouraging 16-percent clip during 2011. Home permits continued to decline (about 3 percent), but it certainly appears that the Utah's home-building free-fall is over and the state seems poised to enter positive home-building territory in 2012.
On the substate level, you'll notice that several counties have already experienced an increase in permitted homes. In the Uintah Basin, both Duchesne and Uintah counties show permitted dwelling unit gains. On the Wasatch Front, Davis and Salt counties permitted more homes in 2011 than in 2010. And, south-of Provo, Millard and Carbon counties displayed an increase in home-permitting. In addition, several counties almost maintained their home-building levels in 2011--both Washington and Utah counties fall in this category.
There's a lot more joy on the new-nonresidential-permitting side of the house. Beaver, Tooele, Weber, Salt Lake, Sanpete, Washington, and Garfield counties all saw their nonresidential permit values jump by 90 percent or greater. Plus, Cache and Rich counties also managed notable nonresidential permit-value gains.
All in all, almost one-third of Utah's counties, scattered over a wide geographic area, showed total authorized construction value improvements in 2011.
I do plan posting in more detail about construction permitting in central and southwest counties next week. If you are interested, keep watching.