The announcement that the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a reliable measure of the industry’s health, had clocked in at a post-recession high of 54.9 in February has many designers feeling that the worst of the downturn is behind them, even if they have made that claim before. The ABI has now surpassed 50 for seven straight months, its best performance since the official 2009 end of the recession. Still, hiring continues to be soft, as firms refocus their energies.
“We’re still hunkered down, trying to be very efficient at everything we do,” says Steve Ruth, a founding principal at Perkowitz + Ruth. The 34-year-old firm, based in Long Beach, California, focused on retail projects for longtime clients like Kroger and Walmart before the economy turned, forcing it to let go more than half its staff between 2008 and 2012, with much of that in the last year. It has 160 employees today and doesn’t plan to start hiring anytime soon.