The U.S. economy is suffering from a severe economic weaknessand its impact on cement consumption and the construction industry will notbe mild, according to the latest Portland Cement Association (PCA) forecastof cement, concrete, and construction.

In 2008, portland cement consumption is expected to drop 11 percent,followed by an additional 5.5 percent in 2009. PCA predicts total cementconsumption in this year to be 101.7 million metric tons.

A record consumption of 128 million metric tons was reached in 2005. Peak-to-trough declines in consumption will total nearly 30 million metric tons,marking one of the worst industry downturns since the Great Depression.

"We are currently in the third year of a four-year industry contractionthat began in 2006," Edward Sullivan, PCA chief economist said. "High fuelprices, slow job creation, and tight lending standards will all adverselyimpact the entire spectrum of construction activity."

Sullivan anticipates that while harsh residential conditions continue toact as a significant drag on cement consumption, the nonresidential sectorwill also see large declines for the next two years.

"Although it grew nearly 11 percent in 2007, nonresidential constructionspending is expected to fall almost eight percent in 2008 and another 12percent in 2009," Sullivan said. "Nonresidential construction is closelytied to economic activity. As the economy softens, the expected return oncommercial investments decline, reducing the incentive to build andexpand."

An additional slowdown in public construction, which accounts for nearlyhalf of total cement consumption in the United States, is predicted for2009 and will continue through 2010.

PCA targets the second half of 2010 with the trend of strong growth incement consumption. By this time, according to the PCA report, all regionsof the United States should be experiencing a recovery in housing andnonresidential construction will be on the upswing.

This article is a press release from the PCA. It was not written by a member of the CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION editorial staff.