More than 75% of A/E firms think the worst of the economic downturn is now over, according to a report by ZweigWhite. The Natick, Mass.-based consulting firm partnered with the American Council of Engineering Companies to survey the leaders of 75 design firms. More than 80% expect their business performance to be good, excellent, or outstanding in the second half of 2004, while only 14% expect business to be satisfactory or poor, according to the 2004 AEC Industry Outlook.

ZweigWhite also identified the key market segments for 2004 (click here to see Table). The single-family and education markets could see a slight cooling, but they'll continue to be two of the healthiest markets next year. Two of the markets scheduled to grow by the largest percentage — manufacturing and office construction — will still remain at historically low levels next year, according to the report.