Last month the city issued 46 building permits — 70 percent more than in January — a sign that Ashland's construction industry could be emerging from the economic basement.

Last month the city issued 46 building permits — 70 percent more than in January — a sign that Ashland's construction industry could be emerging from the economic basement.

The number of building permits issued has steadily increased since the beginning of this year, from 27 in January to 37 in February, 44 in March and 46 in April, according to city records.

"We haven't had that kind of notable increase in some time," said Bill Molnar, the city's community development director. "Generally those are numbers that we would see when there was a fairly stable or continued level of home construction."

Nothing has changed about the city's building permit approval process since January, and applications for building permits, which the city reviews, have also increased, said Billie Boswell, an administrative clerk with the city who handles permit applications. The city requires permits for most construction projects, such as adding a deck or a room to a house or building a new structure.

Both residential and commercial construction appears to be increasing slightly, Molnar said, noting that the city recently received applications for a business-park at 1070 and 1080 Benson Way and a mixed-use project at 426 A St.

Although it is typical for permit applications to increase in the spring and early fall because of favorable weather conditions, the city didn't see that seasonal trend last fall, Boswell said.

"But now things seem to be picking up more," she said.

Since the number of permit applications began to multiply in late winter and early spring this year, it's difficult to predict whether the increase will continue into the summer months, Molnar said.

"As the weather improves, you generally see a spike. It's hard to say if we're seeing the spike now or if we're going to see additional permits come in," he said.

It's "too early to tell" if the increase in permits means the local construction industry is beginning recover from the recession, he added.

"This a promising sign," Molnar said, "but I would anticipate that residential and commercial construction would be sluggish through 2009 still."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.