Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AIA: Architecture Billings Index declines in September

by Bill McBride on 10/19/2016 12:11:00 PM

Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.

From the AIA: Further Contraction in Architecture Billings Index

For the first time since the summer of 2012, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) posted consecutive months of a decline in demand for design services. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 48.4, down from the mark of 49.7 in the previous month. This score reflects a decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.4, down from a reading of 61.8 the previous month.

“This recent backslide should act as a warning signal,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “But this drop-off in demand could be continued hesitancy in the marketplace to move forward on projects until the presidential election is decided. The fact that new work coming into architecture continues to slowly increase suggests that billings will resume their growth in the coming months”
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• Regional averages: South (53.4), Midwest (50.1), West (49.5), Northeast (44.0)

• Sector index breakdown:commercial/industrial (50.4), mixed practice (49.8), institutional (49.0), multi-family residential (48.8)
emphasis added
AIA Architecture Billing Index Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 48.4 in September, down from 49.7 in August. Anything below 50 indicates contraction in demand for architects' services.

Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.

According to the AIA, there is an "approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending" on non-residential construction.  This index was positive in 8 of the last 12 months, suggesting a further increase in CRE investment through mid-2017.  However if this drop-off continues, CRE investment could slow in the 2nd half of 2017.