New Jersey residential builders still struggle to regain the level of activity that they enjoyed before the great recession.

Residential builders in New Jersey took out a little more than 19,000 permits last year, roughly half the number of permits in the year 2005.

"Whenever you come out of a recessionary period it is going to be somewhat choppy," Dwight Pittenger, president of the New Jersey Builders Association said.

Pittenger also maintains that housing activity, while half of what it was in 2005, is still stronger than it was when the last downturn — the savings and loan crisis in the '90s — hit.

"If you compare today's construction activity with that of 2005, that was the pinnacle of that whole cycle that ran approximately 12 years or so," he said.

Pittenger said areas of northeastern New Jersey — in particular Hudson County — have very strong residential demand. But other parts of the state are lagging behind.

"As you look around the state, the northwestern part is a bit of a stretch now for the commuter. Likewise, we are seeing the same thing in southern Ocean county, and that is also being impacted by the casino closures in Atlantic County," he said.

Pittenger said South Jersey is still struggling to recover.

And Jersey residential builders continue to grapple with overregulation: "There are a lot of things that we have to deal with. When I plan a subdivision, from the time that I identify a site that I want to develop to getting it engineered to going to a planning board for approval, getting my outside permits, getting essentially, 'shovels in the ground,' four years can go by. It can be somewhat perilous, particularly if you do not know when we are going to go into the next recession."

Pittenger said some builders have also kept afloat doing Sandy repair and recovery work.

"Right now, our company and other companies that we know are still repairing and lifting houses that were damaged by the storm," he said.

But he predicts this year should be a good year, despite all the recent, slow past.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5