Region's economy hits 3-year low Grant Thornton Index shows continued dip in 1st quarter.


The economies of Baltimore and Washington continued to slow in the first quarter, slipping to the lowest point in three years, according to a report by Grant Thornton, a national accounting and management-consulting firm.

The Grant Thornton Index, consisting of seven equally weighted economic indicators, fell 1.03 points in Baltimore, to 107.1, and 1.09 points in Washington, to 107.7, in the three months ending March 31. The index includes factory hours, non-farm payrolls, construction permits, retail sales, business starts, business failures and the money supply.

Morton D. Goldman, managing partner of Grant Thornton's Baltimore office, attributes the declines to a weakness in non-farm employment, factory hours, construction permits and retail sales.

Goldman says employment hours were down in the construction industry, manufacturing, transportation, service industries and government.

"Everything except agriculture was way down," Goldman says.

On average, the index for all 24 cities studied fell 0.36 points in the first quarter, to 107.9.

Around the country, the index declined in 18 of the 24 metropolitan areas for the first quarter. The six areas that gained were, in order, Denver, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, New York and Los Angeles.

"I've been told by economists that in a recession the worst quarter is the last quarter, but I don't see any reason to be optimistic right now," Goldman says.

Goldman says he suspects the economy will continue to be weak at least through 1991.

For the 12 months ending in March, the index fell 2.68 points in Baltimore, 3.81 in Washington and an average of 2.17 points among all cities studied.

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