After consecutive months of contracting demand for design services, there was a modest uptick in the Architecture Billings Index (ABI).  As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the January ABI score was 50.4, up from a mark of 48.5 in December.  This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).  The new projects inquiry index was 58.5, down a bit from the reading of 59.2 the previous month.

* Every January the AIA research department updates the seasonal factors used to calculate the ABI, resulting in a revision of recent ABI values.

“There is enough optimism in the marketplace that business conditions should return to steady growth  as the year progresses,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “The suspension of the debt ceiling should ease some anxiety around projects for the federal government, at least for the time being. However, private sector spending should lead the construction upturn this year, which will depend more on employment growth and continued improvement in the overall economy.

Key January ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: South (53.5),West (51.1), Midwest (46.5), Northeast (43.6)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (51.8), commercial / industrial (50.9), mixed practice (48.4), institutional (46.5)
  • Project inquiries index: 58.5

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index and inquiries are monthly numbers.