The value of North Carolina construction contracts surged 17% in December but fell just short of the amount needed to push the state’s 2011 total into positive territory, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

Continuing gains in the nonbuilding sector, along with a jump in residential contracts, pushed North Carolina’s December total to $1.1 billion, or 17% better than the same period of a year ago.

McGraw-Hill Construction estimated the state’s nonbuilding contracts at $233.7 million for December, or more than double the amount registered a year ago. Residential contracts improved by 24%, tallying nearly $498.9 million for the month. Meanwhile, nonresidential contracts tallied nearly $387.9 million, or 15% behind last year’s pace.

For the year as a whole, the nonbuilding category, which includes infrastructure projects, was the only positive. This category totaled more than $4.4 billion in new contracts during 2011, or 29% better than 2010’s final total.

The nonbuilding surge wasn’t sufficient for an overall gain for the year, though. Nonresidential work was off by 16% in 2011, delivering roughly $4.5 billion in new contracts. Residential fell 5%, with a final estimate of nearly $5.7 billion.

Overall, McGraw-Hill Construction estimated North Carolina’s 2011 contracts at more than $14.5 billion, or 2% lower than 2010’s final of nearly $14.8 billion.