The Dodge Momentum Index moved 1.7% 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% 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. Commercial construction, however, 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 leading institutional projects were the $200 million Warhorse Casino in Lincoln, Neb., and the $163 million Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, Calif.
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.