On the heels of consecutive months of strengthening business conditions, the Architecture Billings Index has now reached positive territory for three months in a row. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.
The American Institute of Architects reported the January ABI score was 50.9, following a mark of 51.0 in December. This score reflects a slight increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 61.2, down just a notch from a reading of 61.5 the previous month.
“Even though we had a similar upturn in design billings in late 2010 and early 2011, this recent showing is encouraging because it is being reflected across most regions of the country and across the major construction sectors,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “But because we still continue to hear about struggling firms and some continued uncertainly in the market, we expect that overall economic improvements in the design and construction sector to be modest in the coming months.”
Key January ABI highlights:
• Regional averages: Midwest (53.7), South (51.6), Northeast (50.7), West (45.6).
• Sector index breakdown: multifamily residential (52.6), commercial/industrial (52.2), institutional (51.1), mixed practice (46.1).
• Project inquiries index: 61.2.