After starting out the year on a positive note, there was another minor increase in the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) last month. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine-to-12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the February ABI score was 50.7, up slightly from a mark of 50.4 in January. This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.8, down from the reading of 58.5 the previous month.
“The unusually severe weather conditions in many parts of the country have obviously held back both design and construction activity,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The March and April readings will likely be a better indication of the underlying health of the design and construction markets. We are hearing reports of projects that had been previously shelved for extended periods of time coming back online as the economy improves.”
Key February ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: South (52.8),West (50.5), Northeast (48.3), Midwest (47.6)
- Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (52.5), commercial / industrial (51.9), institutional (49.6), mixed practice (46.6)
- Project inquiries index: 56.8
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index and inquiries are monthly numbers.