Economy Watch: Architects a Little Less Busy in September

The seven-month streak of steady growth in demand for design services ended in September, with the American Institute of Architects' Architecture Billings Index dipping to 49.1 for the month.

Kermit Baker, AIA
Kermit Baker, AIA

After seven months of steady growth in the demand for design services, the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index dipped in September. AIA reported the September index came in at 49.1, down from 53.7 in August. That score reflects a slight decrease in design services provided by U.S. architecture firms, since any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.

The new projects inquiry index was 59.0 in September, down from a reading of 62.5 the previous month, while the new design contracts index eased somewhat from 54.2 to 52.9.

“We’ve seen unexpectedly strong numbers in design activity for most of 2017, so the pause in September should be viewed in that context,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement.

The index is a leading economic indicator of commercial and residential construction activity, reflecting the nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The index usually predicts U.S. construction spending growth, though not always in every real estate sector.

AIA’s survey asks participants whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same for the month, compared to the month before. The organization then tabulates the results. The index centers around 50, with tallies above 50 pointing to an increase in billings, while tallies below 50 mean a decline.