The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has reverted into negative territory for the last two months. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the March ABI score was 49.6, up slightly from a mark of 48.8 in March. This score reflects a decrease in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).
The new projects inquiry index was 59.1, up from the reading of 57.9 the previous month.
The AIA has added a new indicator measuring the trends in new design contracts at architecture firms that can provide a strong signal of the direction of future architecture billings. The score for design contracts in April was 54.6.
As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.
“Despite an easing in demand for architecture services over the last couple of months, there is a pervading sense of optimism that business conditions are poised to improve as the year moves on,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “With a healthy figure for design contracts this should translate into improved billings in the near future.”
Key April ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: South (57.5),West (48.9), Midwest 47.0), Northeast (42.9)
- Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (52.6), commercial / industrial (50.2), mixed practice (50.7), institutional (47.1)
- Project inquiries index: 59.1
- Design contracts index: 54.6
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.
About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group<http://www.aia.org/practicing/economics>, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI.
These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the recently released White Paper, Designing the Construction Future: Reviewing the Performance and Extending the Applications of the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index on the AIA web site<http://www.aia.org/practicing/economics/AIAS076265>.