Construction activity and cement consumption in the United States will experience significant declines this year, according to a recent Portland Cement Association (PCA) Economic Research report.

Portland cement consumption is expected to drop 10 percent in 2008, followed by an additional 3.6 percent in 2009. Total 2008 cement consumption is predicted to be 102.7 million metric tons.

"High fuel prices, acceleration of home foreclosures, and the impact of the sub-prime crisis on credit standards are some of the current conditions that lead us to believe the economy is already in a recession," Edward Sullivan, PCA chief economist said. "Even when there is recovery later this year, it will not immediately affect the construction and cement industries."

Sullivan anticipates high home inventory levels to depress the residential sector until second half of 2009, causing a 26.5 percent decline in housing starts for 2008. The nonresidential sector, which is closely tied to economic activity, will fall seven percent.

"Nonresidential construction typically takes 18 months for recovery. This implies further declines in 2009, coupled with a slowdown in public construction activity during the same period," Sullivan said.

According to the PCA report, in the second half of 2009 the economy will gain strength as residential inventories are burned off and credit terms ease. This will lead to a 5.2 percent growth in cement consumption in 2010 followed by an even stronger gain in 2011.