The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped significantly last month. Nationwide architecture work had begun to contract in April, but sunk by a considerable amount more in May. The May ABI score was 45.8, down from an already contracting 48.4 in April. Inquiries for new projects also dropped, from 54.4 to 54.0, the lowest score in a year.

Billings are following a trend similar to last year. After a relatively strong fall and winter, with architecture work showing some growth, the spring has seen a pullback in billings. This is in step with the U.S. economy as a whole, which saw a softening of the economy and job growth last spring as well. In 2010, the ABI saw contraction until September and last year until August, when work picked back up. (According to the AIA, the ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity, reflecting an approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.)

The specific industry regions and sectors did no better than the national score. Architecture billings in all four of the nation’s regions are in contraction for May; and three of four of the industry’s sectors show contraction as well. The only bright spot is that the commercial sector is still showing growth, but even that sector is at its lowest point since August.

Regional Averages
Northeast: 48.6
West: 47.6
Midwest: 46.8
South: 46.1

Sector Index
Commercial/Industrial: 50.7
Multifamily Residential: 48.9
Institutional: 45.6
Mixed Practice: 41.5

The AIA calculates regional and sector categories as a three-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers. You can see charts below for the national, regional, and sector progress.

 0512 ABI national 12 months(600)

0512 ABI national six months(600)

0512 ABI regions(600)

0512 ABI sectors(600)