Despite strong improvement in Florida’s building markets, the state’s March total for new construction contracts fell 24% overall due to a sharp drop in the pace of infrastructure project starts. McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge, publisher of ENR Southeast, estimated the value of new March construction contracts at just over $2 billion.

Despite the sizeable decline, builders had plenty to cheer in March. Nonresidential contracts tallied $692.2 million for the month, or 45% better than last March’s $477.8 million. And residential contracts roared to life as well, increasing by 43% to totally nearly $1.1 billion.

The nonbuilding sector—which includes infrastructure—dropped considerably, however. March’s $255.9-million total for this category was 82% lower than last year’s pace, for instance.

Despite the March decline, Florida’s construction contracts total for the first quarter of 2012 remains 31% higher than 2011’s early pace, says McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge, with about $6.9 billion in new projects so far.

On a year-to-date basis, all three of McGraw-Hill’s broad construction categories remain significantly positive. Nonresidential, for instance, tallies nearly $1.8 billion for the first three months of the year, or 37% better than the same period of a year ago.

Residential contracts have gained similarly. McGraw-Hill Construction estimates this sector at more than $2.7 billion to date, or about 34% higher than a year ago.

Even with the woeful March numbers, the nonbuilding sector remains well ahead of 2011’s pace, with more than $2.4 billion in new contracts to date, or about 24% better than a year ago.