New construction starts in March advanced 16% from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $809.2 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. The substantial gain followed a lackluster performance during the first two months of 2019, as total construction starts in March were able to climb back to a level slightly above the average monthly pace during 2018. The nonbuilding construction sector, comprised of public works and electric utilities/gas plants, jumped 40% in March from a weak February. Nonresidential building increased 24% in March, aided by groundbreaking for several large projects. In contrast, residential building slipped 3% in March, as multifamily housing retreated for the second consecutive month. During the first three months of 2019, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were $164.5 billion, down 10% from the same period a year ago. On a twelve-month moving total basis, total construction starts for the twelve months ending March 2019 essentially matched the corresponding amount for the twelve months ending March 2018. The March data produced a reading of 171 for the Dodge Index (2000=100), up from 148 in February, and 1% higher than the full year 2018 average for the Dodge Index at 170. At the same time, the Dodge Index during the first quarter of 2019 dropped 6% from the fourth quarter of 2018, as it was pulled down by the sluggish volume of construction starts during January and February. Nonresidential building in March advanced 24% to $303.3 billion (annual rate), as widespread growth by project type enabled this sector to reach its highest amount since last October. The manufacturing plant category jumped 108%, while the commercial categories as a group increased 20% in March, registering the third gain in a row after very weak activity back in December. Hotel construction climbed 60% and there was also a 45% increase in office construction for projects valued at $100 million or more. Store construction in March grew 11%, and even commercial garage construction in March edged up 2%, however, warehouse construction retreated 29% after its elevated February amount. The institutional side of nonresidential building picked up the pace after basically flat activity during the previous three months and grew 17% in March. Educational facilities, the largest institutional category, grew 6% in March and healthcare facilities edged up 2% in March. The other institutional project types showed mixed behavior in March - public buildings up 48% after a weak February, religious buildings up 7%, and transportation terminals down 22%.