Riding a stretch of increasing levels of demand for thirteen out of the last fifteen months, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped in April for the second month this year.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the April ABI score was 48.8, down sharply from a mark of 51.7 in March. This score reflects a decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 60.1, up from a reading of 58.2 the previous month.
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.
“The fundamentals in the design and construction industry remain very healthy,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The fact that both inquires for new projects and new design contracts continued to accelerate at a healthy pace in April points to strong underlying demand for design activity. However, April would typically be a month where these projects would be in full swing, but a severe winter in many parts of the Northeast and Midwest has apparently delayed progress on projects.”
Key April ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: South (55.8), West (52.9) Midwest (49.9), Northeast (43.2)
- Sector index breakdown: institutional (51.8), mixed practice (51.8), multi-family residential (49.0), commercial / industrial (48.9)
- Project inquiries index: 60.1
- Design contracts index: 53.1
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-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, 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. 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.