Ending a two-month stretch of increasing levels of demand for architecture and design services, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) released by the AIA today dropped nearly three points from March to April. This marks one of two months in which the market has experienced contractions so far this year. (The other month was January). April's score of 48.8 is down from March’s 51.7 and February’s 50.4. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, whereas a score below 50 means a contraction.

The good news is that other national economic indicators in the report looked positive. The new projects inquiries index for April was 60.1, up from a reading of 58.2 in March, while the design contracts index was 53.1, an increase from 52.3 in March.

“The fundamentals in the design and construction industry remain very healthy,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “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.”

Here are the national, regional, and sector breakdowns for the April ABI report.

National Highlights

National Billings: The April score dipped to 48.8 after two months of increasing growth.
Project Inquiries: The value in this category has risen for the past three months, climbing to 60.1 in April.
Design contracts: The score in this index has also increased for the past three months, rising to 53.1 in April.

Regional Highlights

Northeast: In its eighth consecutive month of contractions, the Northeast  saw yet another decrease in index value from March's 44.8 to April’s 43.2, the lowest score in nearly six years.
Midwest: April’s score remained stagnant at 49.9, just below the 50-mark line.
South: Up one point from March, April’s index value of 55.8 marks the second year of consistent monthly growth.
West: After two months of contractions to start the year, the West has experienced two months of growth. April’s mark of 52.9 is up from March’s 51.5.

Sector Highlights

Multifamily Residential: In a three-month slump, this sector landed in negative territory again. April’s index value of 49.0 is only up marginally from March’s 48.8.
Commercial/Industrial: This sector experienced its first month of contractions in more than two years with an April score of 48.9, down from March’s 50.9.
Institutional: In its 11th straight month of growth, the April score for this sector (51.8) is down slightly from its March value (52.4).
Mixed Practice: After five consecutive months of contractions, the mixed-practice sector rose from 48.3 in March to 51.8 in April.

Charts: Maggie Goldstone 
Source: AIA Architecture Billings Index