The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) doesn’t want to hear it right now–it knows it’s not in a great place, okay? After the economic index started looking up last month—we’re talking 51.7!—the ABI dropped down to 48.8 in April. And, as we all know, any score below 50 means a decrease in billings. Here’s a silver lining, though: the New Projects Inquiry did scoot up from 58.2 to 60.1.
If we dig into the numbers, it becomes clear that one region (spoiler: the Northeast) ruined the party. The South reported an impressive 55.8 and the West wasn’t too shabby with a 52.9. The Midwest was “eh” at 49.9, but the Northeast was a real bummer last month posting a 43.2. By sector it was more of a mixed-bag with institutional and mixed practice both at 51.8, multi-family residential at 49.0, and commercial/industrial at 48.9.
AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker is staying positive, saying in a statement: “The fundamentals in the design and construction industry remain very healthy.” This would be reassuring if it wasn’t almost exactly what John McCain said in 2008, (“the fundamentals of the economy are strong“), when trying to reassure voters the global economy wan’t collapsing before their eyes.
But to be fair to Baker, he has some specifics to back up his optimism. “The fact that both inquires for new projects and new design contracts continued to accelerate at a healthy pace in April points to strong underlying demand for design activity. However, April would typically be a month where these projects would be in full swing, but a severe winter in many parts of the Northeast and Midwest has apparently delayed progress on projects,” he said.