Concluding 2012 with strong business conditions, the December Architecture Billings Index (ABI) marks five consecutive months of growth with a score of 52.0. Released by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity that reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. By remaining above 50, December’s score reflects an increase in demand for design services. However, growth is slightly slower than the previous month, whose mark at 53.2 brought the strongest business conditions since 2007. Additionally, the new projects inquiry index remains in positive territory with a score of 59.4, also down slightly from the 59.6 mark of November.
A five-month run of growth is a trend that has repeated itself since 2010. However, analysts are optimistic. Growth in 2012 began earlier in the year, picking up speed in early August rather than late Fall.
“While it’s not an across the board recovery, we are hearing a much more positive outlook in terms of demand for design services,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Moving into 2013 we are expecting this trend to continue and conditions improve at a slow and steady rate. That said, we remain concerned that continued uncertainty over the outcomes of budget sequestration and the debt ceiling could impact further economic growth.”
View the ABI highlights in greater detail, after the break…
- Billings: 52.0, slightly down from November (53.2) and equivalent to December 2011.
- Inquiries: 59.4 , slightly down from November (59.6) and the 48th straight month above 50.0.
- Northeast: 53.1, slightly down from November (56.3) and the region’s fourth straight month over 50.0.
- Midwest: 55.7, highest score for the region since February 2006 and the third straight score above 50.0.
- South: 51.2, slightly up from November (51.1), but is the region’s sixth straight month over 50.0.
- West: At 49.6, almost at the break-even point, this score remains unchanged from November.
- Multifamily Residential: 50.5, the sixth straight month over 50.0 and the strongest sector in terms of growth since the end of the recession, remaining above 50.0 in 18 of the past 24 months.
- Mixed Practice: 53.0, the fourth straight month above 50.0.
- Commercial: 53.4, the sector’s highest score since February and the third straight month over 50.0. December was also the first month that the commercial sector was the industry’s strongest sector since April.
- Institutional: 50.9, the fifth straight month over 50.0.
The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.