Growth in Architecture Billings Hangs on in November

The monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) came in at a score of 50.6 in November, down a scant 0.2 points from October's 50.8, the American Institute of Architects announced today. Following two months of contraction before October, today's release indicates continued growth.

The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S., and reflects a nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending, nationally, as well as regionally and by project type. A score above 50, like this month, represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score under 50 represents a contraction.

Despite the slowing of growth in billings from October, the new project inquiries index, the most reliable indicator of future billings, according to the Institute, increased a significant 4.1 points in November to a score of 59.5. Design contracts also moved back into growth territory, 1.5 points up to 50.2 in November from 48.7 in October.

Economists are still uncertain about how business will change once the new U.S. president takes office. “Without many details of the policies proposed, it’s still too early to tell the likely impact of the programs of the new administration,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in the Institute's press release. “However, architects will be among the first to see what new construction projects materialize and what current ones get delayed or canceled, so the coming months should tell us a lot about the future direction of the construction market.”

Regional billings, which, unlike the national score, are calculated as a three-month moving average, increased in two of four regions during November. The South posted the highest score of 51.3, but that was down from a score of 53.7 the month before. Even with November's slower growth, the South has been the top region for billings for 11 consecutive months. Billings increased in the Midwest and Northeast, to a score of 50.9 and 50.8, respectively. Growth decelerated in the West for the third consecutive month, dropping to a score of 48.6.

Billings in all sectors increased during November, with the mixed-use sector posting the biggest increase, from 49.5 in October to 51.3 in November. 

The multifamily residential sector also rebounded slightly in November, posting the highest score among all sectors of 51.7, up from October's 51.2. (Results of the sectors and regions are calculated as a moving average of the past three months.)