After stepping back in October reversing into the negative territory, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose more than three points in November to reach its highest mark since December 2007. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C., reported the November ABI score was 52.0, up from a reading of 48.7 the previous month. This score reflects an increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 61.4, down slightly from a mark of 61.7 in October.

"While this is heartening news, it would be premature to say the design and construction industry is out of the woods yet," says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. "We continue to hear a wide mix of business conditions, with a good deal of it still indicating flat or no demand for design services. Once we see several months in a row of increasing demand we can feel safe saying we have entered a recovery phase. Until then, we can expect continued volatility in business conditions."

Key November ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: Northeast (51.1), Midwest (50.9), South (50.5), West (48.7)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (54.3), commercial/industrial (49.8), institutional (49.3), mixed practice (45.8)
  • Project inquiries index: 61.4