On the heels of a more than three-point drop in November, the American Institute of Architects' (AIA), Washington, D.C., Architecture Billings Index (ABI) had a negligible increase of less than one point in December. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. AIA reported the December ABI rating was 43.4, up slightly from 42.8 in November. This score indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 55.3, down more than three points.

"The main impediment to an economic turnaround for the design and construction industry remains frozen credit markets," says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. "We continue to hear that there are numerous viable projects out there awaiting financing. The longer this situation persists, the more dire the news for the architecture profession which is struggling at unprecedented proportions."