After showing struggling business conditions for most of 2011, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has now reached positive terrain in consecutive months. 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 (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 52.0, following the exact same mark in November. This score reflects an overall increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 64.0, down just a point from a reading of 65.0 the previous month.
"We saw nearly identical conditions in November and December of 2010 only to see momentum sputter and billings fall into negative territory as we moved through 2011, so it’s too early to be sure that we are in a full recovery mode," said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. "Nevertheless, this is very good news for the design and construction industry and it’s entirely possible conditions will slowly continue to improve as the year progresses."
Key December ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: South (54.2), Midwest (53.1), Northeast (52.6), West (45.1)
- Sector index breakdown: multifamily residential (54.3), commercial/industrial (54.1), institutional (51.3), mixed practice (44.5)
- Project inquiries index: 64.0