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Institutional Planning Pushes Dodge Momentum Index to Highest Level Since 2018

The Dodge Momentum Index moved 1.7 percent higher in March to 151.4 (2000=100) from the revised February reading of 148.8. The Momentum Index, issued by Dodge Data & Analytics, is a monthly measure of the first, or initial, report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. According to the March data, the Index hit its highest level since the summer of 2018 as a result of an increase in institutional projects that entered the planning stage, and which came on the heels of a similar gain for the sector in February.

Overall, the Momentum Index for March 2021 was up 11 percent in total versus March 2020. While health care and lab projects continue to dominate institutional planning, March saw a more broad-based selection of project types including education and recreation buildings. Institutional building construction rose 14 percent from February, while year-over-year comparisons showed a 10 percent increase for the sector. Commercial construction, however, dipped 3.9 percent for the month due to a slight pullback in warehouse activity that other commercial projects could not make up for, though the sector showed a 12 percent increase from March 2020 in year-over-year comparisons.

There were 16 projects with a value of $100 million or more that entered planning within March. The leading commercial projects were a $400-million Facebook Data Center in Springfield, Nebraska, and a $350-million warehouse project in Shreveport, Louisiana. The leading institutional projects were the $200-million Warhorse Casino in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the $163-million Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, California.

Based on this data, March may signify that the public side of building construction is beginning to stabilize following the COVID-19 led pressure on state and local budgets and suggests a pickup in construction starts may occur as 2021 progresses.