The Dodge Momentum Index moved 1.7% higher in March to 151.4 (the year 2000 = 100) from the revised February reading of 148.8. According to the March data, the Index hit its highest level since the summer of 2018 due to an increase in institutional projects that entered the planning stage, which came on the heels of a similar gain for the sector in February.

Overall, the Momentum Index for March 2021 was up 11% in total versus March 2020. While healthcare 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 14.0% from February, while year-over-year comparisons showed a 10% increase for the sector. However, commercial construction dipped 3.9% 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% 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, Neb., and a $350 million warehouse project in Shreveport, La. The top institutional projects were the $200 million Warhorse Casino in Lincoln, Neb., and the $163 million Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, Calif.

According to the report, based on this data, March may signify that building construction’s public side 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.