For 25 years, CIT Equipment Financing has been forecasting the nation's construction activity. Its recently released findings for the upcoming year, though, forecast the expected slowdown from the historically high levels of construction activity.

The national Optimism Quotient (OQ) was reported at 93 OQ, which marks a nine-point drop versus last year and the first time the quotient has fallen below the 100 benchmark since 1997. According to the company, an OQ below 100 indicates a likelihood that construction activity will decline.

Sales for the construction industry has seen tremendous growth in the past years, reaching high levels that would be difficult to maintain long-term. But, while respondents to the survey agree that costs will continue to rise for service, parts, maintenance and financing in 2001, almost half foresee no change to their net incomes and more than one-third predicts income increases.

The United States was divided into nine regions for the survey: New England, Middle Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, Mountain and Pacific. New England posted the lowest OQ at 78, while the South Atlantic had the highest at 112.

CIT's forecast annually predicts construction trends on both national and regional levels based on telephone interviews with more than 900 contractors and distributors throughout the United States. To request a 2001 CIT booklet or CD-ROM, contact Laura Plemenik at 973/740-5466, or e-mail her at