On the heels of a sizeable decrease in April, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) slowed even further in May. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the May ABI score was 47.2, a slight decrease from a reading of 47.6 the previous month. This score reflects a continued decrease in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 52.6, down from a mark of 55.0 in April, its lowest level in almost a year and a half.
“Whatever positive momentum that there had been seen in late 2010 and earlier this year has disappeared,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The broader economy looks to be entering another soft spot, and certainly state budget constraints are adversely affecting the profession’s ability to work on institutional projects. But there is no denying that the prolonged credit freeze from lenders for financing commercial projects is the number one challenge to a recovery for the design and construction industry.”
Key May ABI highlights:
-Regional averages: West (49.3), Northeast (47.6), South (47.5), Midwest (45.9)
-Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (53.6), mixed practice (49.1) commercial / industrial (46.5), institutional (44.9)
-Project inquiries index: 52.6
About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI. These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the White Paper Architecture Billings as a Leading Indicator of Construction: Analysis of the Relationship Between a Billings Index and Construction Spending on the AIA web site.