The AIA's monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI), released this morning, is in positive territory for the second-consecutive month, posting a score of 51.9 in March. The reading is a marginal 3.2% increase from the 50.3 mark reported in February, signaling an uptick in design sector activity, which has been on the rebound after a slow start to 2016. The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S. that reflects the nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending nationally and regionally as well as by project type. Marks above 50 indicate growth in billings for the period while those below reflect a contraction.
“The first quarter was somewhat disappointing in terms of the growth of design activity, but fortunately expanded a bit entering the traditionally busy spring season,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, said in a press release.
New projects inquiries fell to 58.1 in March from 59.5 in February. Design contracts held roughly steady from February at 51.8.
Among the regions—whose marks are measured as a three-month average—the Northeast and South both showed gains over February at 51.0 and 52.4, respectively, in March. The West held at 50.4 for the third-consecutive month while the Midwest continued to lag behind the other regions, posting a modest contraction for the fifth month in a row, at 49.8.
Multifamily residential continued to lead the sectors in March with a reading of 55.7, followed by commercial/industrial at 51.8, mixed practice at a break-even 50.0, and institutional contracting at 48.0.