Mid-Atlantic Construction magazine�s publisher, McGraw-Hill Construction, regularly reports on the pace of new construction contract activity for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and numerous metropolitan areas.

Here, Mid-Atlantic Construction presents its first quarterly report on the pace of new contracts within the region of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Eastern Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. (For the purposes of consistency, the numbers presented here will include the entire state of Pennsylvania.)

Delaware Through the first three months of 2010, Delaware�s construction contract activity has been wildly up or down compared to the same period of a year ago.

For instance, January�s contracts totaled $235.7 million, or more than four times that of January 2009. February�s $68.5-million total, however, was 64% below the level of a year ago. The pattern continued in March, as the total of $145.4 million was more than three times the pace of March 2009.

Through March, Delaware�s 2010 year-to-date total came in at roughly $452 million, or 61% ahead of 2009�s early pace. The nonresidential market is the big difference-maker, with its $275.7-million tally through the first three months well outdistancing last year�s pace of just $43.3 million.

Residential contracts totaled $95.4 million in the first quarter, or 63% ahead of a year ago, while the nonbuilding sector, at $80.8 million, was 55% behind.

Maryland Contract activity in Maryland hesitated out of the blocks in January but quickly accelerated during February and March.

McGraw-Hill Construction reported a 9% uptick in new project starts for January, followed by a more than 100% jump in February and a 54% gain during March.

For the first three months of 2010, Maryland experienced more than $1.6 billion in new contracts overall, for a 44% improvement compared to 2009.

Here, too, the nonresidential market is off to a strong start, with its $737.5-million first-quarter tally roughly 49% ahead of the amount reported at the same time last year. The nonbuilding market is significantly ahead as well, with $415.8 million in new contracts for a 54% increase. The residential market is 31% ahead of 2009�s pace, at $481.4 million.

Virginia The news is not so good in Virginia, however, where the state�s contract activity through the first three months is an estimated 63% below last year�s pace.

Only January saw improvement, when the overall pace of new starts was 22% ahead of the preceding January with a $762.5 million tally. February followed with a 75% drop and $499 million in new projects. March was similarly dismal. An estimated $850 million in new contracts moved ahead, for a 70% drop.

Overall, Virginia�s first-quarter activity totaled just over $2 billion, or 63% behind 2009. Only the residential market, which improved by 24%, grew during the period. The nonresidential market fell 77% for the quarter, and nonbuilding starts dropped 76%.

Washington, D.C. 2009 was a depressing year for new contracts in the District of Columbia. Fortunately, 2010 is definitely providing some improvement.

The District experienced an 85% jump in new starts during January, followed by a huge jump in February ($328.3 million versus just $12.5 million a year ago) and a similarly sized uptick in March ($574.1 million versus $122.3 million in 2009).

Through the first quarter, new D.C. starts tally roughly $996.9 million, or more than five times the value of the same period of a year ago, when McGraw-Hill Construction reported just $186.1 million in new contracts.

The vast majority of work is in the nonresidential category, with more than $914.3 million in new starts reported. The nonbuilding sector, at nearly $61.3 million, is 22% ahead, while the residential market is 24% behind.

Pennsylvania The state of Pennsylvania is down 8% overall through the first quarter. That�s the result of declines of 26% in January and 16% in February, followed by a 12% increase in March.

Through March, the state�s overall total for new contracts was $2.7 billion, compared to last year�s $3 billion. Nonresidential remains in decline, with the market�s $955.3 million in new starts marking a 34% drop for the year-to-date. Residential was 12% ahead, with $622.1 million in new contracts, and the nonbuilding category improved by an estimated 19%, with nearly $1.2 billion in new projects.