The American Institute of Architects monthly Architecture Billings Index posted at 50.0 in July, falling 0.1 point from June's score of 50.1. 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.

The scores for project inquiries and design contracts were positive in July. New project inquiries clocked in at 54.5, falling 2.2 points from June's score of 56.7. Design contracts posted a score of 50.0, decreasing 2.7 points from June's score of 52.7.

“This is the third straight month that billings at architecture firms have stabilized,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release from the organization. “New project work has been even stronger over this period. This suggests that design work may finally begin to increase over the coming months, although somewhat modestly.”

The month-to-month changes in scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as three-month moving averages—contracted slightly expanded in July, with three out of four scores remaining below 50.0. Billings in the Midwest fell 0.8 point to a score of 51.6, while billings in the West increased 1.0 point to a score of 49.6. Billings in the South decreased 1.6 points to a score of 48.9, and billings in the Northeast fell 1.3 points to a score of 49.3.

July's sector billings scores were mixed. The commercial/industrial sector increased 4.9 points to a score of 52.7; the institutional sector fell 4.2 points to a score of 51.2. The multifamily residential score decreased 2.0 points to a score of 45.4, and the mixed practice sector fell 2.5 points to a score of 46.3. Like the regional billings scores, sector billings scores are also calculated as three-month moving averages.

Read more business news: March Billings Improve Slightly | Decline Slows for December Billings | Billings Slow Again in November | Moderated September billings reflect pressures in housing market