The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is over its little January wobble. As early 2017 indicated a slow start to the year, the dip into the red proved only temporary as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the February ABI score was 50.7, up from a score of 49.5 in the previous month. December, by contrast, produced a score of 55.6.
The score suggests that January was merely a minor blip, following the trend of recent years where the first month of the year was the only negative among positive scores. Last year, the AIA reported positive results for the following six months after a sketchy start to 2016 and this year looks on track to emulate this.
The ABI is the leading economic indicator of construction activity. It reflects a 9 to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The national index, design contracts, and inquiries are calculated monthly, while the regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average. The index runs on a scale from 0-100 and scores above 50 suggest growth while anything below implies negativity in the market.
“The sluggish start to the year in architecture firm billings should give way to stronger design activity as the year progresses,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker in a press release. “New project inquiries have been very strong through the first two months of the year, and in February new design contracts at architecture firms posted their largest monthly gain in over two years.”
Key January ABI highlights:
- Regional averages: Midwest (52.4), South (50.5), Northeast (50.0), West (47.5)
- Sector index breakdown: institutional (51.8), multi-family residential (49.3), mixed practice (49.2), commercial / industrial (48.9)
- Project inquiries index: 61.5
- Design contracts index: 54.7