Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ABI Trending Upward, Remains Negative

The American Institute of Architects' Architecture Billings Index ticked upward for the second consecutive month, posting its highest number since August 2008.

Its March rating of 46.1 rose from 44.8 the previous month and 42.1 in January. Though the number represents a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings), the March 2010 number is the highest score since August 2008.

"This is certainly an encouraging sign that we could be moving closer to a recovery phase, even though we continue to hear about mixed conditions across the country," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "Firms are still reporting an unusual amount of variation in the level of demand for design services, from improving to poor to virtually non-existent. This increasing volatility is often a sign that overall business conditions may begin to change in the coming months."

The new projects inquiry index was 58.5, although that is a somewhat flawed statistic since it can be attributed to more firms pursuing the same projects as opposed to there actually being more projects available.

Regionally, the March ABI breaks down as follows: Midwest (50.5), Northeast (47.0), West (46.0), and South (44.4). By market sector, it breaks down thusly: multi-family residential (47.3), institutional (46.8), mixed practice (45.0), and commercial/industrial (44.7).

As a leading indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.

So the news is good, but it's too soon to say that the recession is over.


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