The design industry snapped out of a two-month decline with a three-point jump in the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) last month. The AIA reported the May ABI score was 52.6, up considerably from April’s score of 49.6. (An index score above 50 indicates growth, whereas a score below 50 indicates contraction.)

The score for the new projects inquiries has been steadily increasing for the past four months. May’s value was 63.2, up from 59.1 in April. The numbers in this category have been in positive territory (over the 50-point line) since February 2009.

The score for design contracts in May was 52.5, a decrease from April’s 54.6, but still reflecting growth in the category. The AIA debuted this economic indicator in the March report to more accurately evaluate future growth within the industry. After rock-steady positive scores in 2013 for this new segment, this index has been fairly unpredictable since the beginning of 2014, with values rising above and falling below the 50-point line nearly every other month.

In the accompanying press release, “Activity has recovered from the winter slump, and design professions should see more positive than negative numbers in the coming months,” says AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA.

Here are the national and sector breakdowns.


National Highlights
National Billings: After back-to-back months of contraction, the national billings value is in the positive with 52.6 in May, up from March’s 48.8 and April’s 49.6.
Project inquiries: At 63.2, up from 59.1 in April, this category has seen increasing values every month since February and consistent growth for more than five consecutive years.
Design Contracts: May’s score of 52.5 is down from April's 54.6, but this newest metric in the AIA report does indicate a two-month growth streak.


Regional Highlights
Northeast: This region saw a 1.6-point uptick in its score, from April’s 46.0 to May’s 47.6, and last saw growth in September.
Midwest: At 51.3, up from 49.7 in April, May marks the first month of growth since October.
South: May’s score of 58.1 is up 1.4 points from April. The South has seen a steady increase in its index value since December and growth for nearly two years.
West: This region experienced another contraction this month when the score dropped from 47.7 to 46.9. This two-month slump follows 20 months of growth.

Sector Highlights
Residential: May’s score of 58.2 is up 2.3 points since April. This sector has experienced growth since October 2011.
Commercial/Industrial: At 53.6, up from April’s 51.7, May’s score marks five months of growth.
Institutional: The index value increased only slightly from 47.2 in April to 47.3 in May, denoting nine months of contractions.
Mixed Practice: April’s score of 50.4 is up slightly from April’s 50.2. This sector has experienced growth for the past two months.