Hinting at signs of an expansion trend, the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billing Index (ABI) remained in positive territory in January for a third consecutive month of healthier demand for design services.
The index reading of 50.9 in January followed December’s 51.0, suggesting slight growth in billings, but growth nonetheless. The index, a leading economic indicator of construction activity, reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending; any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.
The new projects inquiry index was 61.2, down 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.”
Regional averages were 53.7 for the Midwest, 51.6 for the South, 50.7 for the Northeast, and 45.6 for the West. By sector, index averages were 52.6 for multifamily residential, 52.2 for commercial/industrial, 51.1 for institutional, and 46.1 for mixed practice.
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average; the Architecture Billings Index and new-projects inquiries are monthly numbers.