AIA's monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for September came in at a score of 49.7, which is a 2.5-point increase from August's steep drop to 47.2. 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 serve as a continued note of caution for the industry,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “Continued weakness in the larger economy still doesn’t bode well for future design services, which will likely see continued volatility in the months ahead.” In September, design contracts posted a score of 54.5, a 7.2-point increase from August's score of 47.2.

The scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as three-month moving averages—fell in two of the four regions in September, with two regions posting a score above the threshold of 50. Billings in the West and the South rose 0.1 and 4.1 points, respectively, to scores of 51.3 and 52.3. Meanwhile, demand for design services in the Midwest fell 1.1 points to a score of 45.3 and in the Northeast demand fell by 2.8 points to a score of 46.3.

Billings scores fell in two of the four individual industry sectors, but two remained above the threshold of 50. The commercial/industrial sector and the institutional sector decreased by 1.6 and 2.1 points, respectively, to scores of 45.3 and 48.5. The multifamily residential score rose by 2.7 points to a score of 53.2. The mixed practice sector rose by 6.7 points to a total of 53. (Like the regional billings, sector billings scores are also calculated as three-month moving averages.)