Construction activity declined for the first half of 1988 compared to last year, and the dismal trend will continue with no turnaround in sight, a University of Utah report said.

Rising mortgage rates, a glut of multi-family housing and non-residential projects, and a lethargic economy contributed to the slow growth in construction so far this year, the U.'s Bureau of Economic and Business Research said.But a jump in activity during June and mixed results in neighboring states indicate the decline in construction may have touched bottom.

"However, it is doubtful that any dramatic turnaround will occur soon in Utah," Bureau economist Austin Sargent said.

The 2,949 total of residential dwellings permits was a record low for the January to June period since 1970. The 1988 figure was off 31.1 percent from the 4,181 permitted during the same period last year.

Single-family units accounted for more than 91 percent of the residential housing permitted, but they were down 26.3 percent from 1987. The Wasatch Front counties of Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah accounted for 75 percent of the construction, while only Summit and Cache registered increases in activity.

Multi-family unit permits were down 60.4 percent from last year as 241 units were authorized. Overbuilding, tax law changes and slow economic expansion are to blame for the substantial decrease, Sargent said.

The value of all residential construction declined 24.3 percent to $210.1 million.

Value of non-residential construction was down also, despite a slight improvement during the second period. During the first quarter $57 million worth of non-residential construction was permitted, while the second quarter value was $94 million. But the total value for the six months was $151.4 million, down 28 percent from the 1987's first half.

Non-residential construction was hurt by the same factors as multi-housing, Sargent said, in additional to a drop in public construction proj-ects. Public projects were down 89.3 percent compared to last year.

On the brighter side, the bureau reported first half increases in retail establishments (39.1 percent), industrial buildings (9.1 percent) and religious buildings (13.8 percent).

According to F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill Information Systems, construction activity in surrounding states was mixed with Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah showing decreases and Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming having increased activity during the first half of the year.