The value of new construction starts in April fell 8 percent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $608.3 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. Nonresidential building pulled back following its sharp March increase, and residential building also declined due to a slower pace for multifamily housing, according to the latest report.

Meanwhile, the nonbuilding construction sector showed improvement, with public works strengthening after its lackluster March performance. Through the first four months of 2016, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were reported at $198.4 billion, down 12 percent from the same month a year ago.

The first four months of 2015 had been lifted by several exceptionally large projects, including three liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals with a total value of $15.4 billion and three large petrochemical plants with a total value of $11.9 billion, which substantially increased last year’s January-April amounts for the electric utility/gas plant and manufacturing building categories, according to Dodge Data. If the electric utility/gas plant and manufacturing building categories were excluded, total construction starts during the first four months of 2016 would be down a modest 4 percent from a year ago.

April’s data lowered the Dodge Index to 129 (2000=100), compared to 140 for March. The Dodge Index had registered improved activity during February and March, averaging 141. April’s decline returned the pace of construction starts to what was reported during the July 2015-January 2016 period, when the Dodge Index averaged 129. “The construction start statistics on a month-to-month basis are subject to frequent ups-and-downs, so April’s decline after two months of improved activity was not a surprise,” says Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “The elevated volume for nonresidential building in March was not expected to be sustained in the near term, yet the strength shown by its institutional segment in March does provide an indication of where growth is likely to come over the course of 2016. The prospects for the commercial segment of nonresidential building, while still positive, have grown more tenuous given signs that banks are beginning to take a more cautious approach towards commercial real estate loans. Residential building is still deriving some benefit from this year’s low interest rate environment, and increased funding under the new federal transportation act should provide support for the public works sector.”