After plunging to 37.7 in June, the Architectural Billings Index rose to 43.1 in July. The inquiries score was 50.3, the fifth straight month it has climbed above 50. (A score over 50 indicates an increase, and below 50, a decrease.)
Despite the uptick in July, the index continues to shows a weakened demand for design services. The billings score has fallen below 50 for 18 straight months. The last time it showed gains was in January 2008, when it landed at 50.2. The index, a leading economic indicator, is produced each month by the American Institute of Architects based on surveys sent to firms. It reflects a nine- to 12-month lag time between architectural billings and construction spending.
“In addition to a very competitive marketplace,” says Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist, “architects continue to report that lenders have still not yet fully opened credit lines, and that the stimulus funding has so far provided limited project activity for the design community overall.” Roughly 15 percent of the firms surveyed by the AIA have received billable work due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The South climbed to 43.4, up from 42.4 in June.In terms of regional billings scores, some rose in July while others fell:
  • The West remained at 39.7.
  • The Northeast sunk to 37.8, down from 41.7.
  • The Midwest dipped to 36.9, down from 38.3.

The building sector scores also showed mixed conditions:

  • Commercial/industrial slipped to 42.9, down from 43.6 in June.
  • Multi-family residential decreased to 40.7, down from 42.1.
  • Institutional inched to 37.1, up from 37.0.
Most scores are a bit higher than earlier this year. In January, the national billings score sunk to 33.3, an all-time low in the ABI’s 13-year history; regional and building sector scores also hovered in the low- to mid-30s.
For more economic news, visit our Recession and Recovery online section.