Construction activity in West Virginia surged ahead last year, according to a report from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research report shows that the state added 2,100 construction jobs, that the value of construction contracts rose by $354 million and that single-family housing prices rose by 6.9 percent statewide in 2004.

“The rising value of construction contracts was driven by infrastructure projects and residential activity,”said George Hammond, research assistant professor in the bureau.

Infrastructure projects include utility building, roads and highways, water and sewer projects, and other construction projects that are not buildings. Overall, the value of construction contracts, measured by construction market analyst F.W. Dodge, rose from $1.7 billion in 2003 to $2.05 billion in 2004.

“Residential construction in the state is responding to low mortgage interest rates,”Hammond said,”with 30-year fixed mortgage rates hitting 5.84 percent in 2004, well below their 2000 level of 8.06 percent.”

Further, West Virginia single-family home prices surged by 6.9 percent in 2004, but that increase was well below the national average of 10.8 percent.

Metropolitan house price appreciation was strongest in the eastern part of the state, with the Winchester , Va. (up19.6 percent), Washington (up 19.3 percent), and Hagerstown , Md. -Martinsburg (up 17.6 percent) metropolitan areas recording increases above the national average. Each of these metropolitan areas includes at least one West Virginia county.

In 2004, Hardy County posted the largest value of construction contracts per capita of any county in the state ($4,159), reflecting construction on Corridor H in the county. Wyoming County ($3,881), McDowell County ($3,431), Jefferson County ($3,217), and Berkeley County ($3,184) rounded out the top five counties in the state in per capita construction contracts.

“Construction activity in Wyoming and McDowell counties reflected utility construction, while activity in Jefferson and Berkeley counties was primarily residential,”Hammond said.

“Residential building contracts in Berkeley and Jefferson counties accounted for 39.1 percent of all state residential building contracts in 2004,”he added.”The building reflects the amazing population growth in the Eastern Panhandle, which has added almost 19,000 residents since 2000.”

Full details for all state metropolitan areas and counties are available in the latest West Virginia Business and Economic Review, published bi-monthly by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The publicationB&E Review, June 2005is available free at the bureau’s Web