In May, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) fell two points to 43.4, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Down from the 45.5 mark in April — any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings — the decrease extends the downturn in design activity at architecture firms. The inquiries for new projects score was 46.5.

“With the exception of the institutional sector, we’ve seen a dramatic contraction in design activity in recent months,” says Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, AIA chief economist. “Right now things are especially hard in the West and in the commercial and multi-family residential sectors. This weakness in design activity can be expected to produce a contraction in these construction sectors later this year and into 2009.”