AIA's monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for July came in at a score of 50.1. This is a 1-point increase from last month's score of 49.1, marking a small increase in demand for design services. The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S. and reflects a nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending nationally, regionally, and by project type. A score above 50 represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score below 50 represents a contraction.
“The data is not the same as what we saw leading up to the last economic downturn but the continued, slowing across the board will undoubtedly impact architecture firms and the broader construction industry in the coming months,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “A growing number of architecture firms are reporting that the ongoing volatility in the trade situation, the stock market, and interest rates are causing some of their clients to proceed more cautiously on current projects.” In July, design contracts posted a score of 49, a 1.3-point decrease from June's score of 50.3.
The scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as three-month moving averages—rose in two of the four regions in July, with only one region posting a score above the threshold of 50. The billings score for that region, the West, did rose 1.9 points to a score of 51.2. Meanwhile, design services in the Northeast increased by 2.2 points to a score of 48.3. In the South, demand fell 3.6 points to a score of 48.3 and in the Midwest demand remained stagnant at 48.9.
Billings scores fell in two of the four individual industry sectors. The commercial/industrial sector fell by 3.1 points to a score of 49.2, while the mixed practice sector decreased by 5.4 points to a score of 48.9. The multifamily residential score increased by 4.3 points to 50.6 and the institutional sector increased by 2.8 points to a score of 49.8. (Like the regional billings, sector billings scores are also calculated as three-month moving averages.)