The AIA's monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) came in at a score of 52.8 in May, marking the eighth consecutive month of gains. 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, as seen this month, represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score below 50 represents a contraction.

May's score is 0.8 points higher than April's reading of 52.0, indicating that business continues to trend upward despite labor shortages and cost inflation of building materials. New project inquiries—which AIA economists consider to be the most reliable indicator of future billings—increased 2.6 points in May to a score of 59.3, indicating that billing will likely continue to rise in June.

“Architecture firms continue to have plenty of work as they enter the busiest part of the design and construction season,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “This is especially true for firms serving the institutional building sector, which reported their strongest growth in billings in several years.”

In May, design contracts received a score of 53.3—a 3.2-point increase from April's score of 50.1. Design contracts continue to measure above the 50-point threshold—as they have every month in the last year—a sign that momentum is strong, despite small month-to-month fluctuations.

The scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as a three-month moving average—increased in three of four regions during May. The West (51.9) saw a decrease of 3.2 points while the Northeast reported a score of 50.6, a 0.3-point increase from last month's score. Demand for design services increased in the South (55.0) and the Midwest (50.2) regions during May, with scores 3.2 and 0.6 points higher, respectively, than a month prior.

The mixed-use sector was the sole category of the four building sectors to experience decreased demand for design services in May, with a 2.7-point dip to a score of 47.9, but all the other sectors posted a score above 50, indicating growth. Demand for design services in the institutional sector (54.3), commercial/industrial sector (53.6), and multifamily residential sector (52.1) increased in May, reporting a 2.3-, 0.9-, and 1.4-point growth in billings, respectively. (Results of sectors are also calculated as a three-month moving average.)