The future looks bright for computers and bleak for construction. This is the Commerce Department's prediction for industry in 1988.

Computing equipment will be the fastest growing industry with an anticipated gain of 22.1 percent. Eight of the 15 industries with the best outlook for the year are related to electronics, defense or medicine.

On the list of the 15 industries with growth to match the rate of slow molasses, seven are related to construction. At the bottom is the flat glass industry, predicted to fall by 10.3 percent in 1988.

The statistics come from an advance copy of "U.S. Industrial Outlook," a Department of Commerce report that will have a long list of eager readers when it is disseminated to the public this week.

The department looks at the winners and losers of the industrial world and predicts that the fastest-growing industries will be service-related, the businesses that do something for you instead of making something for you. Manufacturing industries will also continue their six-year pattern of rising sales with 82 percent of those industries expected to increase.

According to the Commerce Department report reviewed by our associate Michael Binstein, the top 10 industrial winners from 1972-1988 will be computing equipment, semiconductor devices, optical devices, lenses, X-ray apparatus, lithographic services, biological services, electronic connectors, medical and surgical appliances, and medical and surgical instruments.

The 10 losers during this same period will be turbine generator sets, photoengraving, cigars, leather-lined clothing, railroad equipment, paper board mills, primary zinc, textile machinery, rubber and plastic footwear, and wooden radio and television cabinets.

The department compiled its forecasts before the stock market crash of Black Monday, so some of the report may err on the side of optimism.

Here is the Commerce Department assessment for three industries:

(BU) While the immediate future is bright, down the road computer equipment companies will be bounced around by intense foreign competition, short product cycles and aggressive pricing. All of that shows up in the industry's declining trade surplus and employment. Look for more mergers of those companies.

On the softer side, the computer software industry will continue to grow in revenue and jobs to keep up with the demand by computer users to get the most out of their hardware. American manufacturers will have to keep looking over their shoulders to keep foreign competitors -- especially the Japanese -- from besting us in the new hardware and software advances.

(BU) American auto manufacturers will continue to lose ground to importers. The major American automakers could lose 2 million vehicle sales and 175,000 jobs between now and the early 1990s, according to the Commerce Department.

(BU) Retailers are watching total annual sales inch toward the $2 trillion mark. Department stores are restructuring toward larger chains, but specialty stores and warehouse-type outlets will continue to prosper.