North Carolina contractors saw a 50% increase in the value of new construction contracts during March, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. The company estimated the state’s new contracts at nearly $1.5 billion, well ahead of the year-ago figure of $990 million.

All three construction categories posted solid gains. Most notable was the nonresidential sector, which totaled $528.4 million for the month—or more than double the amount tallied last March.

Nonbuilding—which includes infrastructure projects—jumped 47% during the month, for an estimated total of $365.2 million. Residential recorded nearly $592.6 million in new starts, or 12% better than a year ago.

On a year-to-date basis, McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that the value of new North Carolina construction contracts totals just over $3.4 billion through March, or 14% higher than 2011’s first quarter tally.

Residential has improved by the greatest percentage. This category totaled $1.7 billion through March, or 31% ahead of 2011’s early pace. The nonbuilding category is 13% higher than a year ago, with about $703.9 million in new contracts.

Despite the big March numbers, North Carolina’s nonresidential category remains negative for the year. McGraw-Hill Construction estimates the total value of new contracts in this category at $999.5 million, or 5% lower than the first quarter of 2011.