The value of contracts in two of South Carolina’s three broad construction categories declined sharply in March, resulting in a 40% overall monthly decline in activity, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, publisher of ENR Southeast.

Overall, projects totaling about $462.4 million moved ahead in March. Residential proved the only positive sector for the month, as housing contracts totaled $344.5 million, or 17% better than the previous March.

Nonresidential fell 81% in March. This category’s latest total of just over $72.9 million was well behind the year-ago figure of $387.2 million.

Nonbuilding declined sharply as well. Its March total came in at $44.9 million, or less than half that of a year ago, when it tallied an estimated $93.9 million.

On a year-to-date basis, South Carolina’s construction contracts activity is 18% behind 2011’s early pace, says McGraw-Hill. Through March, the state’s overall total is nearly $1.6 billion, down from the $1.9 billion estimated for the same period of a year ago.

Nonbuilding is the furthest behind. Through March, this category has recorded $186.5 million in contracts, or 51% lower than 2011. Nonresidential contracts are 46% below 2011’s early pace so far, with an estimated $444.8 million in projects moving ahead.

The residential market is the only positive to date. This category’s $961.2 million tally through March equates to a 32% gain over last year.