The Architecture Billings Index saw a dip into negative terrain for the first time in five months in January, but inched back up in February with a small increase in demand for design services. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the February ABI score was 50.3, up slightly from the mark of 49.6 in the previous month. This score reflects a minor increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.5, up from a reading of 55.3 the previous month.
“March and April are traditionally the busiest months for architecture firms, so we should get a clearer reading of underlying momentum over the next couple of months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Hopefully, the relatively mild weather conditions recently in most parts of the country will help design and construction activity move ahead at a somewhat faster pace.”
Key February ABI highlights:
• Regional averages: South (51.1), West (49.9), Northeast (49.5), Midwest (49.3)
• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.0), commercial / industrial (52.3), institutional (48.1), mixed practice (47.7)
• Project inquiries index: 59.5
• Design contracts index: 51.7
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.