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Total Construction Starts Decline in March

Total construction starts fell 12 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $903.8 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network. Nonresidential building starts lost 29 percent, in part due to the start of three large manufacturing facilities in the prior month. When those three large projects are removed, nonresidential starts in March would have risen 10 percent.

Year-to-date, total construction was 9 percent higher in the first three months of 2022 than in the same period of 2021. Nonresidential building starts rose 26 percent. For the 12 months ending March 2022, total construction starts were 15 percent above the 12 months ending March 2021. Nonresidential starts were 25 percent higher.

“The volatility caused by the ebb and flow of large projects masks an underlying trend of strengthening in construction starts,” says Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Construction Network. “Nonresidential construction has benefited from the growing confidence that the worst of the pandemic is in the rear-view window. The pipeline of projects waiting to start continues to fill, suggesting this trend will continue. However, higher prices and a shortage of skilled labor will slow the progress of those projects through the design and bidding stages, resulting in moderate growth in starts activity.”

Regionally, total construction starts in March rose in the South Atlantic, but fell in all other regions.

Nonresidential building

Nonresidential building starts fell 29 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $274.8 billion. The decline in March followed a large gain in manufacturing activity in February, which saw three large plants break ground. In March, commercial starts rose 8 percent due to gains in office, hotel and warehouse starts. Institutional starts increased 9 percent in March as starts in all sectors moved higher.

For the 12 months ending March 2022, nonresidential building starts were 25 percent higher than in the 12 months ending March 2021. Commercial starts were up 21 percent, institutional starts rose 12 percent and manufacturing starts advanced 162 percent on a 12-month rolling sum basis.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in March were the $505 million second phase of the Switch SuperNap data center in Sparks, Nevada, the $460 million second phase of the Park 303 office building in Glendale, Arizona, and upgrades to the $410 million Exxon Mobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.