AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index stalled in October, posting a score of 47.5, up just 0.5 point from September's score of 47.0. 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.

“Though still in negative territory, the moderating billings score along with the rebound in design contracts and inquiries provide some guarded optimism,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in the Institute's press release. “The pace of recovery will continue to vary across regions and sectors.” New project inquiries increased from 57.2 in September to 59.1 in October, and design contracts inched into positive territory for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic's start, increasing from 48.9 in September to 51.7 in October.

The month-to-month change in scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as three-month moving averages—improved in October, though all four regions continue to report scores below the threshold of 50. Billings in the Midwest rose 3.8 points to a score of 49.4, while billings in the South rose 2.1 points to a score of 45.8. Billings in the West rose 4.8 points to a score of 50.4, while billings in the Northeast increased 3.4 points to a score of 44.9.

The ABI scores mildly improved in all four individual industry sectors. The commercial/industrial sector rose 4.7 points to a score of 48.0; the institutional sector rose 1.7 points to a score of 42.2. The multifamily residential score rose 1.1 points to a score of 55.1; the mixed practice sector rose by 5.4 points to 52.7. Like the regional billings scores, sector billings scores are also calculated as three-month moving averages.