AIA's monthly Architecture Billings Index for February came in at a score of 53.4, which is a 1.2-point increase from January's score of 52.2. Despite this positive reading, the fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic is likely to disrupt markets for months—if not years—to come. 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.

“Business conditions at architecture firms have been surprisingly positive so far this year. However, firms were just beginning to feel the impact of the dramatic slowdown caused by COVID-19 as this survey was being conducted in early March.” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “The rapid pull-back in activity throughout the economy will obviously be felt in the design and construction sector, and architecture firms will be one of the first to see how these events play out.” In February, design contracts fell by 4 points to a score of 52.

The scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as three-month moving averages—rose in three of four regions in February with two of four regions reporting scores above the threshold of 50. Billings in the Midwest rose 2.3 points to a score of 53.6 while billings in the South rose 1.3 points to a score of 58. Billings in the West fell 2.3 points to a score of 49.8, while billings in the Northeast rose 4.1 points to a score of 49.4.

Billings scores rose in all four individual industry sectors, with all sectors remaining above the threshold of 50. The commercial/industrial sector rose by 0.9 points to a score of 52.4 The institutional sector increased by 1.7 points to a score of 52.8. The multifamily residential score rose by 2.3 points to a score of 53.5. The mixed practice sector increased by 1.1 points to 52.7. (Like the regional billings scores, sector billings scores are also calculated as three-month moving averages.)

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