The AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) closed the month of August with a score of 49.7, down from the 51.5 reported in July, the Institute announced today. The result, just below the 50-point threshold separating growth in the market and contraction, put an end to a seven-month growth streak that began in February. 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 and regionally as well as by project type. A score above 50 represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score under 50, like this month, represents a contraction.
In contrast to the overall national contraction, however, architecture companies did report noticeable growths in both project inquiries and the signing of new design contracts. The new project inquiry index soared to a 13-month high of 61.8 in August, 4.3 points higher than was seen in July, while the design contracts index continued its second-consecutive month of growth to 52.7.
“This is only the second month this year where demand for architectural services has declined and it is only by a fraction of a point,” AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, said in a statement. “Given the solid numbers for new design contracts and project inquiries, it doesn’t appear that this is the beginning of a broader downturn in the design and construction industry."
Regional markets posted lackluster results in August, with billings in only two out of four markets growing in August. (This is the same as we saw in July, but with growth slower and contraction steeper.) The Midwest was the lone state that witnessed an increase in its billings score, from 50.8 to 52.8 in August, while the South declined to 55.2 but remained in positive territory. Billings in the West and Northeast continued to contract to 49.0 and 44.9, respectively. (Unlike the national indexes mentioned above, the regional category are calculated as a three-month moving average.)
The mixed practice sector had the best August, with billings rising to 51.8 from 51.1 in July. Billings in both commercial/industrial and institutional took a notch up to 50.8 and 50.7, respectively. Multifamily residential cooled off in August with a 11-month low of 50.9, but growth remained. (Results of the sector category are also calculated as a moving average of the past three months.)